by David Cole, The Nation
On January 11 it will have been a decade since the first of the men we once called “the worst of the worst” were brought to Guantánamo Bay, a location handpicked by the Bush administration so that it could detain and interrogate terror suspects far from the prying eyes of the law. In the intervening years much has improved at this remote US-controlled enclave in Cuba. Allegations of ongoing torture have ceased; the detainees have access to lawyers and court review; and more than 600 of the 779 men once held there have been released.
But in another way, Guantánamo is a deeper problem today than it ever was. No longer a temporary exception, it has become a permanent fixture in our national firmament. And although at one time we could blame President George W. Bush’s unilateral assertions of unchecked executive power for the abuses there, the continuing problem that is Guantánamo today is shared by all three government branches, and ultimately by all Americans. With President Obama’s signing of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on New Year’s Eve, the prison is sure to be with us—and its prisoners sure to continue in their legal limbo—for the indefinite future.