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Guantanamo Bay Could be the Place for Some Foreign Fighters

According to U.S. and Western military and intelligence officials, many of these foreign fighters remain ideologically motivated, and their training and battlefield experience makes them especially dangerous.

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In the end, U.S. defense officials caution Guantanamo Bay may be the only choice left. “The administration has said very clearly Gitmo is an option here,”
Guantanamo Bay, wikimedia commons

U.S. defense officials appear willing to send more captured terrorists to the country’s detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but see the prison as a last resort, best suited for hard-core fighters who cannot be safely contained at other locations.

The Pentagon Wednesday sent updated guidance to the White House on the rules governing what type of individuals could be sent to Guantanamo Bay, though officials cautioned that no new transfers are in the works.

“Ultimately, the White House will decide how we move forward,” Chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters.

“Our policy is that we are trying to encourage countries to take back their citizens,” she added. “We will continue to push that.”

Neither the White House nor the Defense Department have been willing so far to comment on the new guidelines in any detail.

A statement from a Defense Department spokesperson broadly defined those eligible for transfer to Guantanamo Bay as any person posing “a continuing, significant threat to the security of the United States.”

Then-President George W. Bush opened Guantanamo after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to hold and interrogate suspected enemy combatants.
Flag of the United States, wikimedia commons

The fate of the detention facility, once slated for closure, has taken on additional importance as U.S. and coalition operations against the Islamic State terror group in Iraq and Syria begin to wind down.

Currently, U.S.-backed forces in Syria are holding more than 400 IS foreign fighters, while even more are being held in various prisons and other facilities in Iraq. Washington would like to see them returned to their home nations, but many countries are reluctant to accept these fighters.

According to U.S. and Western military and intelligence officials, many of these foreign fighters remain ideologically motivated, and their training and battlefield experience makes them especially dangerous.

“In some cases, those countries have stripped them of their citizenship, so they have a different view as far as to what their status is today,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said earlier this week. “So, this is not simple.”

In the end, U.S. defense officials caution Guantanamo Bay may be the only choice left.

“The administration has said very clearly Gitmo is an option here,” Christopher Maier, director of the Defense Department’s Defeat ISIS Core Task Force told VOA. “If they’re not held in some sort of custody, then you’re just asking for more turmoil.”

Even then, not all foreign fighters would be candidates.

Then-President George W. Bush opened Guantanamo after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to hold and interrogate suspected enemy combatants.
The White House to take final call on the issue, wikmedia commons

“I think the intent would be to use Gitmo for certain types of ISIS fighters that were maybe of a more extreme set that couldn’t be dealt with in local facilities or local systems,” Maier said.

The last time Guantanamo Bay received a new detainee was more than 10 years ago, in March 2008. In 2009, then-U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order directing that the detention facility be shut down.

Since then, the number of detainees has fallen from 242 to 40, with the military announcing the most recent transfer, of Ahmed Muhammed Haza al-Darbi to Saudi Arabia, late Wednesday.

Darbi’s transfer, the first under President Donald Trump, came as part of a 2014 plea deal that will allow al-Darbi to serve out the rest of his 13-year sentence under Saudi guard.

But unlike his predecessor, Trump pledged to keep the Guantanamo Bay detention facility open, making a key promise of his presidential campaign to “to load it up with some bad dudes.”

He signed an executive order to that effect this past January.

Also Read: UN Requests Trump Not to Quit Iran Deal

Then-President George W. Bush opened Guantanamo after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to hold and interrogate suspected enemy combatants.

At the height of its operations, the prison held 780 people, mostly inmates with alleged ties to al-Qaida and the Taliban. Since then, hundreds have been transferred to their home countries or to other nations that agreed to accept them. (VOA)

 

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Border Security Bill: Debate Furies Over U.S. Presidential “Emergency Powers”

Well it's clear one side is losing and that's the American public, and particularly the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who are not being paid or who are not going to work. In terms of the political actors, you know, the polling that we have suggests that most Americans blame President Trump for the shutdown.

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A U.S. Border Patrol agent rides a vehicle on the beach in San Diego, Jan. 9, 2019, seen through the border wall from Tijuana, Mexico. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump will sign a border security bill, averting a government shutdown on Friday, but plans to formally declare the southern U.S. border a “national emergency,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday.

The declaration would clear the way for Trump to authorize new funding for a permanent physical barrier. The move would end contentious negotiations with Congress over funding for the wall, but some legal analysts worry it will set a dangerous precedent for presidents trying to negotiate with Congress.

In January, during a 35-day partial government shutdown caused by a dispute over border wall funding, VOA spoke with John Hudak, deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Management at The Brooking Institute, about the legal issues around a possible emergency declaration by the president.

QUESTION: What powers does a president have to declare a national emergency? Could he simply order government funds to be used to build a border wall?

So there are really two questions here. First, under the national emergencies act, the president has a fairly broad power to declare a national emergency. Now the declaration of that emergency is simply that — a declaration. And according to a pretty firm reading of that law, it’s hard to see where there is an exception to the president’s ability to do it.

Donald Trump
In terms of the political actors, you know, the polling that we have suggests that most Americans blame President Trump for the shutdown. Pixabay

The next part of that, though, involves the powers that the president can exercise under that law and there are obvious limitations on that, constitutional limitations and other limitations within the law that the president can’t violate. And unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, we haven’t experienced serious questions about presidential power in this space. So it’s really left as an open question right now, in terms of the extent of presidential power that courts will need to sort out.

Q: Could Democrats block this in Congress? Is there any constitutional precedent for presidents simply going around Congress to fund a priority policy item?

So there is, within the law, the ability of Congress to stop a national emergency. It requires both houses of Congress to vote to say that the national emergency is over. Now democrats can certainly do that alone, in the House. They cannot, however, do it alone in the Senate, it would require several Republican votes.

However, this is the type of exercise of executive power that leaves a lot of Republicans uneasy. And you’re already starting to see those conversations among Senate Republicans, saying that if we’re all right with President Trump doing this over a border wall, would we also be all right with a Democratic president doing this over climate change or other issues?

And so I think it remains to be seen whether Congress will have the votes to stop presidential action in this area, whether they’ll have the political will to do it. But they certainly have the power to stop this type of behavior.

To the second part of your question, you know, presidents have tried to go around Congress in terms of spending money in the past or even moving money around within or across budget lines or accounts in the past.

And frequently presidents are stopped because the spending power in the constitution rests with the Congress and so this creates a real challenge for President Trump if he wants to start moving funds or re-appropriating funds or using funds that are not even appropriated, pushing up against that constitutional protection against that power. So he might have the power to declare a national emergency, but he cannot usurp the Constitution in the exercise of powers during that emergency.

The entrance to the Smithsonian's National Gallery of Art is padlocked as a partial government shutdown continues, in Washington, U.S., Jan. 7, 2019.
The entrance to the Smithsonian’s National Gallery of Art is padlocked as a partial government shutdown continues, in Washington, U.S., Jan. 7, 2019. VOA

Q: On the politics of the current shutdown, is one side or the other winning? Which sides appears to have an advantage at the moment? How does it end?

Well it’s clear one side is losing and that’s the American public, and particularly the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who are not being paid or who are not going to work. In terms of the political actors, you know, the polling that we have suggests that most Americans blame President Trump for the shutdown.

Also Read: Is 2020 U.S. Presidential Election Going To Be The Costliest In History?

A smaller percentage of Americans blame congressional Democrats and smaller still blame congressional Republicans. I think a lot of Americans look at this skeptically and say, “What has changed between the beginning of the president’s term and now that makes this such a dire emergency?” And I think it leaves a lot of Americans scratching their head. President Trump is playing to his base here, but unfortunately his base is a small percentage of the population. And most of the rest of the population is not with him on this issue of the wall. (VOA)