CIA Secret Prisons and the Future of Guantanamo

| Wed Sep. 6, 2006 4:30 PM PDT

Why is President Bush coming clean about the CIA secret prisons? Time offers one explanation.

By transferring name-brand al-Qaeda prisoners recognized as dangerous men — such as alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad — to Guantanamo from secret detention abroad is likely to strengthen the rationale for the off-shore facility, and for dispensing justice via military courts. It is also precisely because the Supreme Court has ruled that military tribunals do not offer detainees sufficient legal rights that the President has now urged Congress to pass legislation to address those concerns.

But the detainee transfers and the legislative intervention sought by President Bush is unlikely to end the legal and political controversy over Guantanamo. It may, however, strengthen the case for a policy of holding detainees off-shore and trying them in military courts. And by making the announcement in the form of a dramatic break into national television schedules before a handpicked audience that included some families of 9/11 victims, it also aimed to position the President and his Administration in the minds of swing voters as the guardians of the nation's security in the face of a clear and present danger.

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