Rumsfeld Exit May Reopen Detention Issue;
Guantánamo was Donald Rumsfeld's baby. Now, some see a chance for change in the U.S. war-on-terrorism detention policy. GUANTANAMO NAVY BASE
BY CAROL ROSENBERG
The Miami Herald
November 9, 2006
From his perch at the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had an intimate, early interest in the creation of the detention center for terrorism suspects at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
With a stroke of his pen, he approved, temporarily, the harshest of interrogation tactics used there and was an outspoken advocate of the U.S. policy of indefinite detention without civilian court review. He even traveled to Miami two years ago to promote the policy to the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.
Now, analysts say, his resignation offers the Bush administration a chance to rethink the controversial policies that have earned the United States international condemnation.
''It has become such a bad example of a lot of things -- the military generally, bad planning, lack of foresight and the specific intention to abuse people,'' said retired Rear Adm. John Hutson, now dean of the Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H.
``The United States tried to create a prison where no law touched; I think [Rumsfeld's resignation] presents the opportunity to close it.''
From 1997 to 2000, Hutson was the Navy's top uniformed lawyer. Then he left a 28-year military career. As a civilian, he soon emerged as an outspoken critic of the legal framework that created the detention center at the U.S. Navy base in southeastern Cuba.
Now, he said, the military can't set everyone free but can redefine the standard for holding men, let some go, transfer others elsewhere, and bring stateside those who can legitimately be convicted of crimes.
On Wednesday, there was ''huge relief he's gone'' among British national security circles, said Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian newspaper's security affairs editor, in an e-mail from London.
''UK security and intelligence agencies -- MI5 and MI6 -- were aghast at the way Rumsfeld triumphantly displayed the first Guantánamo prisoners,'' he said.
He described the stark images from CampX-Ray, which persist even today, as ``a terrible hostage to fortune . . . in the fight against terrorism and struggle for hearts and minds.''
Democrats in the past have opposed the stripping of habeas corpus protections from Guantánamo detainees. Some have called for the center's closure, if only to improve the international standing of the United States, by moving some of the captives to detention elsewhere.
While in the minority, some Democratic lawmakers have also sought answers on how Pentagon interrogation policies morphed into documented abuses at GuantánamoBay and Abu Ghraib, in Iraq.
Just as Rumsfeld is leaving, the detention center is at a crossroads, two months shy of its fifth anniversary:
Lawyers are redesigning the rules for its war-crimes court, in response to an act of Congress and a U.S. Supreme Court rebuke that declared President Bush's initial Military Commissions unconstitutional and in violation of the Geneva Conventions.
It has new outspoken Navy leaders and supervision both at the U.S. base in Cuba and at the Southern Command in Miami, both advocating transparency at the secretive outpost.
The CIA recently transferred to Guantánamo 14 alleged senior al Qaeda operatives, men the White House casts as archterrorists -- shifting the focus from assertions that the camps house a collection of goatherds and foot soldiers swept up in the war on terrorism.
Pentagon planners are drawing up blueprints for a multimillion-dollar courthouse complex. Its future may hinge on whether the new secretary of defense chooses to go forward and whether Democrats agree to fund it.
''Rumsfeld was a forceful advocate for the policy at the base. His removal means one less forceful advocate,'' said Stephen Biddle, senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Any successor, he said, will seem less obstinate, especially after President Bush appeared Wednesday to suggest that some compromises with Democrats will be possible.
Ex-CIA chief Robert Gates, Rumsfeld's designated successor, ''is not likely to be as extreme as Rumsfeld,'' Biddle said. ``I mean, who could be?''