Berkeley, Calif., Mulls Plan to Woo Gitmo Detainees to Move There

Monday, 14 Feb 2011 10:14 AM

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The city of Berkeley, Calif., is considering a proposal that reinforces its reputation as a cauldron of controversy since its halcyon days of ’60s anti-war protests: It might invite a couple of so-called “cleared” terror detainees from the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention camp to settle there, according to the Bay Area blog at SFGate, the website of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Berkeley, Calif., terror, detainees
Guantanamo detention camp. (AP Photo)
The city council will vote on the proposal Tuesday, writes Debra J. Saunders, who notes that the advocate, Peace and Justice Commissioner Rita Maran confided to her that the concept is to invite as residents "the kind of people you'd like to have living next door to you or dating your cousin."

Although the commission’s resolution doesn’t name names, Saunders reports, it includes material about two detainees, Russian-born Ravil Mingazov and Algerian-born Djamel Ameziane, it contends have been "cleared," which it contends means the individuals "pose no threat to the United States."

The idea certainly suits the welcoming invite on the city’s website, which proclaims, “Berkeley is a constantly changing mix of long-time residents and new neighbors, and whether you just arrived from Albany or Azerbaijan, you are welcome here.”

But some folks aren’t so liberal about whom they want living next door, much less dating their cousins.

Saunders quotes Thomas Joscelyn, senior fellow for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, as observing that “there’s an entire mythology" about apparent exoneration of detainees who actually have just won conditional releases or habeas corpus petitions.

Joscelyn observed that, although members of President Barack Obama’s task force approved some transfers and conditional releases from some of Guantanamo's 240 detainees in 2009, "They didn't find any innocent goat herders."

Proponents of the Berkeley plan contend it would correct what they view as objectionable government actions such as holding some detainees without charges, according to The Associated Press, which notes that the plan faces another major stumbling block: Congress currently restricts the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo to the United States.

The city of Amherst, Mass., approved a similar resolution in 2009, according to AP.

Meanwhile, columnist Saunders notes that the Berkeley plan could falter in a NIMBY response, writing: “The Berkeley City Council remains in the easy seat where talk is cheap. Or as UC Berkeley law professor and former Bush White House attorney John Yoo noted, ‘It's the perfect combination of futility and stupidity. It is futile, because what happens to Gitmo detainees is up to the federal government. It is stupid because only Berkeley would want to be a magnet for resettlement of Gitmo detainees.’”

And yes, that’s the same UC professor students tried to get booted last year, insisting that he be tried for alleged war crimes.

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