PRESIDENT-ELECT Obama has made clear his intention to close Guantanamo Bay as soon as he can legally do so. He has said that he believes the legal framework at the prison has failed to successfully and swiftly prosecute terrorists. Might it not seem sensible, therefore, for all decisions concerning the remaining prisoners at Gauntanamo to be put on hold at least until after January 20? One person who apparently does not see the sense of doing that is the chief military prosecutor, Colonel Lawrence Morris; he announced yesterday that he intends to file new charges against Mohammed al-Qahtani, a Saudian Arabian who is sometimes referred to as the 20th highjacker on September 11, 2001.
Earlier charges against Qahtani were dropped after a Pentagon inquiry found that confessions he had made were obtained after degrading and abusive treatment that included sleep deprivation, forced nudity, prolonged isolation and exposure to cold - treatment that some experts on the subject say amounts to torture. Col Morris claims that he has independent and reliable evidence against Qahtani but has not explained why this has not been made available before. The suspicion must be that some hardliners at Guantanamo are unwilling to accept its imminent demise. Guantanamo Bay will long remain as evidence of the moral bankruptcy of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld triumvirate that tried to rewrite the rules of war and of the Geneva Convention.