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June 10th, 2009
10:37 AM ET

Commentary: No risk-free Gitmo solution

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Former Deputy Asst. Defense Secretary for Detainee Affairs Cully Stimson says there is no risk-free solution to bring Guantanamo detainees to the U.S."]

The first terror detainee from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba arrived in New York City yesterday to stand trial. Many from both parties don't want him or any other detainee here. The transfer is said by some to be a key test for President Obama's plan to have the prison camp closed within a year of taking office.

Cully Stimson is a former Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for Detainee Affairs. He’s been to Gitmo several times. He spoke to John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Wednesday.

John Roberts: This is being talked about by some people as a big test case for closing Guantanamo. Do you see it that way?

Cully Stimson: I don't, John. It's a unique case. Remember, he was indicted for his alleged involvement in the '98 East Africa bombings. His four co-conspirators have already been tried and convicted. So this is unique. This is not, as some are suggesting, a huge test case beginning a trend of removing detainees from Guantanamo to the United States. So I just see it as a one-off.

Roberts: So what is the significance of this case?

Stimson: It’s significant in the sense that it’s finishing up unfinished business from the '98 bombings. And so once you eliminate or move one detainee from Guantanamo somewhere else, that is one less person you have to deal with at Guantanamo. But it's finishing up unfinished business. Obviously he’s presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But this is a strong case.

Roberts: Republicans came out yesterday heavily criticizing this move, saying it's the Obama administration importing terrorists to American soil. Is it?

Stimson: Well, it is importing a person who is one of five people involved in the '98 bombings, so they’re right. And I don't think this allays any concerns that the Democrats and Republicans had expressed a few weeks ago that they would precipitously close Guantanamo before a plan is in place. But again, I think this is a completely unique situation. People should take a deep breath. I understand the politics as you do, John. But this is a unique situation.

Roberts: As you said, this is somebody who was wanted for the 1998 bombings of the embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. It’s not a post-9/11 matter even though he wasn't captured until 2004. We already have prisoners here in the United States related to terrorism – Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, Zacarias Moussaoui, Richard Reid, and John Walker Lindh the “American Taliban” captured in Afghanistan during the war. Do you believe that the U.S. penal system is ready to handle these people?

Stimson: I don't have any concerns that these guys, if brought to the United States, would break out of our federal pens or our military prisons. We have a great record in that regard. I share the same concerns that Director Muller of the FBI says that bringing folks here to the United States may indeed increase the threat to the United States for terrorist attacks of our forces overseas or here in the United States. But I think that it can be managed properly. There is no risk-free solution, at all. But I think that it will eventually happen. The question is what are the details of the plan?

Roberts: So you’re saying yes, it might increase the risk, but that's not a reason to not do it?

Stimson: That's right.

Roberts: So how do you allay people's fears who think if you get these fellows into prisons here they may not be able to perpetrate acts of terrorism themselves, they may not ever be released, but they may influence people who are in prison with them, maybe even recruit them to terrorism?

Stimson: Well, we already have people in prisons in the United States who are attempting to recruit people to jihad. But I think any reasonable plan, and we don't know what the plan is yet, would segregate Guantanamo folks from any of the standard prison population to minimize that threat. Some have suggested breaking up the Guantanamo population you bring here and putting them in separate prisons. I don’t think that's necessarily a good idea. I think you put them all in one place and don't have any standard domestic, what I call “vanilla prisoners” anywhere in the facility to mitigate the threat of that.

Filed under: Guantanamo
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Vince

    Hey people this is war,as we are told. People die. Soldiers are tortured. In ww2 captured soldiers weren't released until the war was over. Why are we letting these people grandstanding against America.In the old days reporters were told what to cover and what not too. What is happening here? Hats off to all the people who took a stand and did what they had to for our nation. War is ugly. We all know it. Mean while our soldiers were hung and beheaded. Did we forget this. All is fair in war. Shame on the people that are making our soldiers criminals. Go all of our armed forces, take no prisoners and torture them in the field and leave them for dead, then their is no crime. God bless our troops and God speed.

    August 24, 2009 at 1:04 pm |
  2. john chow

    Your chance ro right the wrongs done to them.

    Grant them permanent residency in US.
    Give them $1 million each for next 10 years.
    Honor them at White house. Say sorry profusely.
    Get them a Nice House / Cars for life.

    They would have no desire to harm anyone.
    The cost of above is leass than 1% of what we have spend to keep them so far.

    We are the one who took them away from their family and city/villages imprisoned these people, torture them for years.

    We spend so many millions (wait.. billions) to keep them in detention camps. Have we spend this kind of money on the civilians in these countries (without contractors), they would chase those Terror Nuts themselves. Cost effective in the so called terrorism fight.

    June 10, 2009 at 1:13 pm |
  3. Dydi

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    June 10, 2009 at 12:35 pm |
  4. Bismarck

    Our elected officials are always grandstanding for political gains. Think for a second, would you rather have guantanmo detainees released in the US where they will be under constant surveillance by our competent FBI and CIA officials or would you have them released to a remote island from where they can easily escape. Some of these detainees who werent found guilty would have now developed an animosity against the US while in guantanamo and would wanna get back at the US and will be easy and willing recruits for those who seek to harm us.
    So the question is, would you rather competent US officials monitor this guys here or have foreign officials with little interest in our national security guard and monitor these released detainees?

    June 10, 2009 at 11:03 am |