Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Ghailani's Impact on GWOT

Ahmed Ghailani arrived in New York Federal Court in 2009 to stand trial for the attacks on US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania as the first detainee from Guantanamo Bay to stand trial. This followed shortly after President Obama signed the Executive Order to close the camp and Ghailani was selected due to the assumption that his conviction would be an easy victory for the prosecution.

The debate rages on about whether or not the verdict was a win for the Obama Administration’s decision and I do not care to discuss my opinion on the matter here. What will be important in the future is the way this affects nations such as Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to name a few, who have either extradited known terror suspects to the US or allowed US operations within their borders to capture them.

Now that the precedent has been set, it will be nearly impossible to reverse for the US. Cooperation from foreign governments since the War on Terror began has been predicated on the notion that the rules have changed and the US would ensure that the suspects taken to CIA prison camps or Guantanamo Bay would never see the light of day again. Whether it is viewed as lawful or not, it surely pleased the more authoritarian regimes that give lesser value to human rights and led to the capture of many terrorists the US would still be negotiating for to this day. Most of these governments probably applauded this newfound US partnership to eliminate terror cells within their borders, as long as the terrorists were mutual enemies of both countries.

While I hate to use the phrase “rolling the dice” in reference to a jury trial, it is something the Pakistans of the world and everyone else who may be urged to extradite a US-wanted terrorist in the future, must consider. Of course, there are alternate courses of action the Department of Justice could consider even if a former Guantanamo detainee is acquitted on all charges. But how can the Obama Administration maintain its promise of realigning our moral compass by enforcing fairness if this occurs?

There are still places in the world an acquitted terrorist can go to disappear, and unless a tracking device is attached to them without their knowledge, the US would be relatively helpless to monitor them. The names of persons, governments, and organizations that assisted in their capture the first time will already be known during the trial proceedings making them all possible targets of retribution. The guarantee of US protection now seems a little less comforting.

I certainly do not mean to insinuate that all detainees are guilty or hell bent on vengeance, but the prospect has now become a greater concern to those we rely on in the War on Terror.

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