By Evan Perez
President Barack Obama's efforts to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are expected to face some crucial Senate votes this week, and for the first time in four years, he stands a chance to win some.
A Senate bill to authorize defense spending contains some of the loosest restrictions yet on transferring Guantanamo prisoners, including possibly to the United States for detention, trial or medical care.
The bill would still require certification from the secretary of defense that the 164 Guantanamo prisoners won't pose a danger if transferred to the United States or other countries. But the streamlined process could help the Obama administration make progress on a goal that appeared all but given up for lost.
This year, the administration is using tight budgets as part of the argument for closing the prison that Obama, in a speech at the National Defense University in May, said was a symbol of the U.S. flouting the law that "should never have been opened."
By Jamie Crawford
Some former inmates at the United States prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are still returning to the battlefield, a report from the U.S. intelligence community says.
Of the 603 detainees who have been transferred from the facility since it opened, 100 of them, or 16.6%, have re-engaged in terrorist activity, says an unclassified summary from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released last week.
Three detainees of 71 who were released since January 2009 have gone back to battle, and four others who were transferred from the facility since then are suspected of returning to their old ways.
"Based on trends identified during the past ten years, we assess that if additional detainees are transferred without conditions from GITMO, some will reengage in terrorist or insurgent activities," the report said. "Transfers to countries with ongoing conflicts and internal stability as well as active recruitment by insurgent and terrorist organizations pose a particular problem."
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the latest in a series of stories and opinion pieces previewing the upcoming Aspen Security Forum. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event which is taking place from July 17-20 in Aspen, Colorado. Follow the event on Twitter under @aspeninstitute and @natlsecuritycnn #AspenSecurity.
By Larry Shaughnessy
Jeh Johnson recently stepped down as the Pentagon’s top attorney. Now in private practice as a partner at PaulWeiss law firm in Washington, Johnson recently spoke to CNN about some of the issues he faced overseeing the Defense Department’s 10,000 uniformed and civilian lawyers, issues he may be asked about when he speaks at the Aspen Security Forum.
CNN: What is the biggest legal hurdle the Defense Department and Intelligence community face?
Johnson: “I would say that the biggest legal challenge that DoD and the intelligence community face right now is to settle upon a new legal architecture for, what I perceive to be, the next phase of our counterterrorism efforts against al Qaeda and other terrorism efforts.
“We’ve been through 12 years of what some people would characterize as conventional armed conflict. And most intelligence experts would agree that core al Qaeda has been decimated and we’re at an inflection point now. And it is most likely the case that the traditional approach to armed conflict is no longer the best approach and so we need, in my view, to develop a legal architecture and a legal strategy that is a whole of government approach that deals with the new terrorist threats in forms that are not necessarily al Qaeda and it’s affiliates.”
Torture allegations in 2008 derailed CIA director nominee John Brennan from getting the same job four years ago. Now as Brennan prepares for his confirmation hearing the movie Zero Dark Thirty opens nationwide and the issue of "enhanced interrogation" techniques are front and center again. CNN's Chris Lawrence reports on the controversy.
By Pam Benson
A suspected terrorist is held down by his CIA captives at a black site, one of the secret overseas prisons run by the CIA. Cloth covers his entire face as a bucket of water is poured over it.
It's the harrowing first scene from "Zero Dark Thirty," the soon-to-be-released movie about how the CIA found Osama bin Laden. The scene depicts waterboarding, the controversial harsh interrogation technique that simulates drowning, and it suggests that waterboarding and other coercive techniques aided in identifying the courier who eventually led to bin Laden.
While only a limited number of people have seen the movie so far at prerelease screenings, its first 45 minutes have reignited the debate over whether the U.S. government engaged in torture.
The scenes are bound to have a bigger effect on moviegoers than the less dramatic sleuthing depicted in the film, said Peter Bergen, a CNN national security analyst.
"These visceral scenes are, of course, far more dramatic than the scene where a CIA analyst says she has dug up some information in an old file that will prove to be a key to finding bin Laden," he wrote in an op-ed in CNN.com's Opinion section this week.
It's not just in a movie. By coincidence, the debate is also front and center as the Senate Intelligence Committee prepares to vote Thursday on whether to approve a report its nearly four-year investigation of the CIA's interrogation and detention program. Committee staff looked at more than 6 million pages of mostly CIA documents in compiling the 6,000-page report.
By Jennifer Rizzo
Federal prisons and Defense Department correctional facilities in the U.S. would need myriad operational changes if detainees held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were transferred into the country, according to a Congressional investigative report released Wednesday.
However, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who ordered the report in 2008, touted it as proof the U.S. prison system could handle the detainees, many of whom are accused of terrorist acts.
"This report demonstrates that if the political will exists, we could finally close Guantanamo without imperiling our national security," Feinstein said.
According to the Government Accountability Office report, there are six Defense Department facilities within the U.S. and more than 2,000 facilities holding individuals convicted of federal crimes that could hold Gitmo detainees.
The report found that many issues would need to be considered if those detainees were transferred to one of the facilities located in the U.S.
By Bill Mears
A federal judge used tough language to block efforts by the Obama administration to limit the legal rights of terror suspects held at the GuantanamoBay military prison inCuba, ruling Thursday that proposed changes were an "illegitimate exercise of executive power."
Officials of the departments of Justice and Defense had claimed they alone should decide when the prisoners deserve regular access to their attorneys.
But in a 32-page ruling, Judge Royce Lamberth said federal courts had proper authority to decide the matter, and criticized the executive branch for recently changing the procedures, when he said the current system was working well.
"The old maxim 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' would seem to caution against altering a counsel-access regime that has proven safe, efficient, and eminently workable," said Lamberth. "Indeed," he added, "the government had no answer when the court posed this question in oral arguments" last month.
"Access to the courts means nothing without access to counsel," added the judge.
Justice Department lawyers said they have started restricting when Guantanamo prisoners could challenge their detention in the Washington-based federal court. If approved, any relaxing of the rules would be made on a case-by-case basis at the exclusive discretion of military officials, not by the courts.
By Bill Mears
Appeals from seven detainees at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, contesting their open-ended custody, were turned aside by the Supreme Court on Monday.
Without comment, the justices refused to take a fresh look at the "habeas" petitions by the suspected foreign enemy fighters and what rights they have to make their claims in federal court.
In the so-called Boumediene ruling in 2008, the high court said "enemy combatants" held overseas in U.S. military custody have a right to a "meaningful review" of their detention in the civilian legal justice system. It would force the government to present evidence and justify keeping the prisoners indefinitely, without charges.
But a federal appeals court in Washington has since refused to order the release of any detainee filing a habeas corpus writ, in some cases rejecting such orders from lower-court judges.
According to Pentagon figures, 169 foreign men are still at the Guantanamo facility, including five "high-value" suspected terrorists from the 9/11 attacks set to go on military trial.