Right-wing media figures are attacking President Obama over his decision to lift a moratorium on a Guantánamo Bay detainee transfer to Yemen -- a decision that has earned the praise of a former top Navy judge and is an important step toward closing the detention facility, which experts agree is necessary.
On May 23, Obama announced that he is lifting his ban on the transfer of detainees from the Guantánamo Bay detention center to Yemen. That ban was put in place following the failed Christmas Day 2009 bombing attempt on a U.S. airliner. The convicted bomber involved in the attempt trained in Yemen.
Right-wing media figures seized on the news to attack Obama. Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin warned that transfers are "a surefire recipe for more Benghazis, more U.S.S. Coles and more innocent lives at risk":
Gird your loins, America. President Obama intends to empty out Guantanamo Bay and send scores of suspected Muslim terror operatives back to their jihadist-coddling native countries. Goaded by anti-war activists and soft-on-terror attorneys (including those from Attorney General Eric Holder's former private law firm), Obama announced Thursday that he'll lift a ban on sending up to 90 Yemeni detainees home and will initiate other stalled transfers out of the compound.
This radical appeasement of Obama's left flank is a surefire recipe for more Benghazis, more U.S.S. Coles and more innocent lives at risk.
On the May 24 edition of The Laura Ingraham Show, host and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham touted Malkin's "terrific piece" and criticized Obama's lifting of the ban as nothing more than an "attempt to look like you're serious."
As Reuters reported, repatriating prisoners to Yemen is one of multiple steps Obama announced to move toward closing Guantánamo -- something experts agree must be done.
In a December 2011 New York Times opinion piece, retired four-star Marine Gens. Charles C. Krulak and Joseph P. Hoar explained that a failure to close the detention camp is "ensuring that this morally and financially expensive symbol of detainee abuse will remain open well into the future" and will "bolster Al Qaeda's recruiting efforts." Additionally, Morris Davis, a former chief prosecutor of the military commissions at Guantánamo, has argued that the detention facility "serves as a recruitment tool for extremists" and is "a stain on America's reputation."
Moreover, Obama's decision to lift the ban was praised by retired Rear Adm. Don Guter, a former judge advocate general and the Navy's top judge on September 11, 2001:
Retired Rear Admiral Don Guter, who served as the judge advocate general and was the Navy's top judge on September 11, 2001, praised the move to lift the ban on Yemeni transfers.
"That's really created paralysis on that issue so removing that moratorium is a great step," Guter said.
The transfers will not happen immediately, and will not involve detainees who are deemed threats to the U.S. As Reuters reported, current law "requires the Defense Department to certify for each transferred prisoner that the destination country is not a state sponsor of terrorism and would take action to make sure the individual would not threaten the United States." Restarting the transfers "would be a multistep process," including confirmation by the secretary of defense that that "the risk of recidivism has been mitigated," according to The Wall Street Journal:
Restarting the transfers to Yemen would be a multistep process. First the White House must issue orders rescinding its prohibition on transfers to the country. Next, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel must sign a national-security waiver asserting that the transfer is in the interests of the country and that the risk of recidivism has been mitigated.
After the U.S. waiver is signed, the administration must notify Congress of its intent to transfer the detainees 30 days in advance.
The Journal further reported that a U.S. official "said the transfers to Yemen would begin slowly, starting with two or three detainees, to ensure Yemen can keep track of the detainees and prevent them from joining militant groups."
Malkin's and Ingraham's attacks on Obama come on the heels of Fox using former George W. Bush administration officials to criticize Obama's plan to close Guantánamo and dismissing the conclusion by experts that the detention facility helps terrorists' causes.