Sunday, January 02, 2005

Hold them, let them go, or shoot them?

There is some blogger buzz about this story in the Washington Post, Long-Term Plan Sought For Terror Suspects:
Administration officials are preparing long-range plans for indefinitely imprisoning suspected terrorists whom they do not want to set free or turn over to courts in the United States or other countries, according to intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials.

See comments from Joe Gandelman at Dean's World, Talk Left (via Instapundit), Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, and Sean Hackbarth at The American Mind.

My take: I think there is less here than meets the eye.

First, the article carefully minces words when it comes to the length of time people would be imprisoned: "a more permanent approach for potentially lifetime detentions" is being discussed. Yes, there are many scenarios where someone's detention would be for the remainder of his life, such as death by suicide or old age. But I see nothing in the article to suggest that is the intent. These people will become much less dangerous once al Qaeda and its ilk are defeated.

Another key aspect of what is being discussed is to return detainees to their home countries. In my mind, this completely erases the concern about US citizens being hauled off in the middle of the night never to be seen again. In fact, the prison facilities would be built by the US with some form of oversight by the US. I suspect the terrorists in these facilities will be a lot more comfortable than their compatriots in their countries' regular prison systems.

Finally the article spends a lot of ink on secret CIA detainees and a procedure called "rendition." I don't see how these proposed permanent prisons affect secret CIA detainees. Surely the sparkley new American prisons in the middle of Afganistan, Egypt and Jordan would attact far too much attention to be useful to the CIA. It sounds like a red herring to me.

Glenn says he thinks the whole thing is a trial balloon. Sounds right to me.