Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why Gitmo Should Remain Open: Exhibit One

Mas Selamat Kastari

The dude who's sneering at us from the 2003 photo to the right is Mas Selamat Kastari, the suspected Singapore leader of the radical Islamist group, Jemaah Islamiah. Jemaah Islamiah is blamed for attacks including the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 200 innocents.

Mas Selamat Kastari is also the alleged mastermind of a plot to hijack a plane and crash it into Singapore's Changi Airport.

Since the bombings, Mas Selamat has been in and out of custody.

In February 2003, tip-offs by the Singapore authorities had led Indonesian police to monitor
Mas Selamat’s movements after he arrived in Indonesia. They tracked him to Tanjung Pinang in Bintan, arresting him just after he arrived by ferry from Dumai in Riau.

After Mas Selamat was released in August 2005, the Singapore police made another request to their Indonesian counterparts to track him again.

In January 2006, they found him at a neighborhood mosque in Sengkaling, East Java. Mas Selamat was handed over to Singapore the following month.

But Mas Selamat escaped the maximum security Whitley Road Detention Centre in Singapore while on a toilet break on Feb 27, 2008. He was recaptured on April 1st. (No fooling!)

How to keep dangerous jokers like Mas Selamat locked up? A netizen from Singapore's Online Community, SgForums, suggests:
Build a high-security prison on an isolated island. It would have a natural barrier - the sea - so detainees will not be able to go far.
What a concept!

We already have such a perfect facility. Of course its international reputation has been defamed by the abuses of the Busheney abuses. I'm talking torture here.

But instead of ending Gitmo, we should be setting about mending it:
  • Internationalize it: staff it with a multi-national guards.

  • Make it transparent: subject facilities to un-announced visits by the International Red Cross or the like.

  • Humanize it: reasonable diet, sanitized quarters, etc.

  • Seal it: No visitors or internet privileges. (It's a prison!)

  • Assume indefinite custody: no "enhanced interrogation". Kid gloves counseling, maybe. But inmates might hope to talk their way out through open, on-site hearings attended by an attorney and presided over by some sort of judicial figure.
All this needs work and refinements. Many of my readers will find fault with this and call it a half-baked scheme, which it is.

But there seems to be a liberal stampede to raze Guantanamo and/or give it back to the Cubans. It's a resource we are going to need. We're going to be catching a lot of bad guys around the world, hopefully. Not just us, the USA, but all of the countries holding on to their stature as part of the global economy. I'm speaking of Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Columbia Phjiilipnes, Nigeria and others. These polities do not have stable politics or secure prisons. And American courts do not have jurisdiction over combatants or bombers caught overseas. Needed is a international destination-certain for these bad boys and girls to be sent to for protective custody. Gitmo will serve better for this purpose than the Hague.

We just have to internationalize the security and make treatment of inmates residents transparent to the International Red Cross, Amnesty International and other interested parties. Maybe the U.N. can provide a constabulary presence. (That's a detail.) Make Gitmo a secure, escape-proof resort. No golf or swimming, of course. Just an extended stay, until guests can convince their therapists that they are too mellow to raise hell.

Think of the possibilities. There are quite a number of terrorist perps in captivity around the world. Their captors are often unstable, failing states. Not wanting to risk prisoners escaping, their option might often be just to take 'em out back and shoot them. By opening up L'Hotel Guantanamo, think of the lives we could be saving!

So, I say I say mend Gitmo, don't end it.