May 13, 2009

Former Bush State Dept official Philip Zelikow testified today about the closing of Guantanamo Bay. He compared it to the former prison known as Alcatraz, which was closed because of its horrendous reputation. He also feels that the U.S. could easily hold any prisoner from Guantanamo Bay, while Republicans are trying to claim otherwise with their usual fearmongering.

Zelikow: Guantanamo, in world public opinion, had become a toxic problem for the United States of America, and so we needed to address that as an issue in our foreign policy.

Dick Durbin asked if we could hold any transfers from Gitmo to federal correctional facilities in the United States safely, Zelikow answered:

Zelikow: Sir, we hold people who are far more dangerous in such institutions including quite dangerous terrorists like Ramzi Yousef, who's currently residing in a maximum security facility inside the US now. I'll also add that I've had the opportunity on behalf of one of the federal judges who have been working through the habeas petitions to be asked to examine classified files and provide expert advice on holding these folks and one of the things that strikes me now and struck me then is we have a vast amount of experience in how to judge the continued incarceration of highly dangerous prisoners since we do this with thousands of prisoners every month all over the United States including some really quite dangerous people. We routinely make these decisions...

I think the United States knows something about prisons, since we hold the most prisoners in the world. Sen. Jim Webb is setting his eyes squarely on reforming the prison system in America. Glenn Greenwald has an excellent piece on Webb's proposal. Good for him.

And by holding Guantanamo detainees here, it would create more jobs for corrections workers wherever they are held.

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