Former CIA Chief: Holder Is Unrealistic on Gitmo Closing

Wednesday, 28 Sep 2011 11:01 AM

By Ronald Kessler

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Like Rip Van Winkle, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. appeared at the European Parliament the other day to announce that the Obama administration plans to shut down the military prison at Guantanamo Bay before the 2012 elections.

Holder apparently slept through the bipartisan congressional uproar which resulted in a law banning bringing any terrorist detainees to U.S. soil. That leaves no possibility of closing Guantanamo.

Nonetheless, as President Barack Obama did on his second day in office, Holder said the administration is focused on closing the facility “as quickly as possible.” He added that if the facility is not closed by the election, the effort to close it would continue even after the 2012 election.

Former CIA Chief Michael Hayden says Attorney General Eric Holder Is Unrealistic on Gitmo's Closing.
Attorney General Eric Holder
(AP photo)
Asked what he thinks of Holder’s statement on closing the facility, former CIA Director Michael Hayden tells Newsmax, “That may be what he thinks is a necessary thing to say in order to create the appearance of more significant differences than there really are between the two administrations.”
But in “realistic terms,” Hayden says, “I don’t think that it was a practical statement.”

Holder may be posturing, but his statement had the desired effect in certain quarters. Elisa Massimino, president of Human Rights First, praised the administration for demonstrating that it is “determined to make good on the promise made by President Obama on his second day in office.”

Holder made no mention of the testimony on July 26 of Michael Olsen, the new director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), who stated that he has seen no change in al-Qaida recruitment efforts since the administration said it would close the facility.

At the hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Saxbe Chambliss, a Georgia Republican, asked Olsen, “Have you seen evidence we are safer or that recruits have fallen off as a result of the president’s announcement of the intent to close Gitmo?”

Olsen could not have had better credentials for answering such a question. Before being nominated to head the NCTC, he was general counsel of the National Security Agency (NSA). Prior to that, he was executive director of Obama’s Guantanamo Review Task Force and was an associate deputy attorney general responsible for supervising and coordinating national security and criminal matters.

Olsen replied, “I have not seen, from, again, my perspective both on the task force and more limited perspective in my current role in that security agency anything, in specific response to your question, to that effect.”

In a stunning example of media bias, only Fox News has run a story on Olsen’s testimony, which totally undercuts the administration’s rationale for closing the facility.

In addition to that, as Chambliss pointed out at the hearing, al-Qaida “uses our Israel policy, the Afghan war, the death of bin Laden, and a host of other issues as recruiting tools, and no one suggests that we should change these policies.”

While President Bush also said he would like someday to close Guantanamo, he never came up with a timetable, as Obama has. Since then, Congress has made it clear it will oppose bringing any prisoners to the U.S., leaving no option except to continue to operate the facility.

Even when offered incentives, other countries have rejected U.S. requests to transfer Gitmo detainees to their prisons. Hayden notes that more than 1 in 4 prisoners released from Guantánamo have returned to terrorism.

While websites that recruit terrorists mention Gitmo, Hayden says, “I don’t know that there has ever been really strong evidence that it was a significant part of recruiting.”

In fact, “My sense is that Guantanamo raised far more questions in Europe than it did in the Arab world,” Hayden says.

“The question is, in that stew of things that convinces someone to do these kind of things, would that decision have been different had Guantanamo not existed? I think that in the overwhelming majority of cases, the answer is no, it would not have been different,” Hayden adds.

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of He is a New York Times best-selling author of books on the Secret Service, FBI, and CIA. His latest, "The Secrets of the FBI," has just been published. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via email. Go Here Now.

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