In January 2002, the Pentagon began imprisoning men it described as “very hard cases”—“the worst of the worst” terrorists in American custody—at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. During the next seven years it released more than 500 of them. “What’s left,” Vice President Dick Cheney declared in the final week of the Bush administration, “is the hard core.” That was a few days before the Pentagon released half a dozen more.
Unless the Bush administration recklessly loosed hundreds of hardened terrorists on the world, its initial descriptions of the detainees were mistaken. That pattern of error reinforces the argument against allowing the executive branch to wield the unchallengeable authority it asserted at Guantanamo.
As President Obama proceeds with his plan to close the prison, he should recognize that Guantanamo is not so much a place as a state of mind. It’s an attitude that says: We know who the bad guys are, and we’re not about to let anyone endanger national security by second-guessing us.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Jacob Sullum writes for Reason: