Vail Valley Voices: From Gitmo to Colorado | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley Voices: From Gitmo to Colorado

Sal Bommarito
Vail, CO, Colorado
newsroom@vaildaily.com

The controversy surrounding the terrorist prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is escalating every day.

The whole episode began when the Bush administration decided to use the facility shortly after the second Iraq war began to detain and question enemy combatants. In most cases, detention is indefinite, and interrogations have been aggressive.

President Bush and Vice President Cheney were so distraught about the Sept. 11 attacks that they authorized dangerous and demeaning interrogation techniques including waterboarding (during which a prisoner is made to feel like he’s drowning as he’s being questioned) to obtain intelligence that might protect America.

The administration ordered its legal counsel to draft briefs which justified the techniques and indicated that they were not torture as defined by the Geneva Conventions.

In 2002, the CIA briefed select members of Congress about the nature of interrogations taking place at Gitmo. One type of interrogation discussed, allegedly, included waterboarding. Present at the meeting was Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives.

As the word spread that the U.S. was “torturing” detainees and the prisoners had no rights such as legal representation or a speedy trial (or any trial for that matter), outrage in America and around the world grew. Human-rights advocates claimed that the U.S. was acting shamefully.

Leading the charge in Congress was Speaker Pelosi. Her critics are now saying she didn’t oppose the administration about torture earlier because it might have made her look soft on national security. But when the tide changed, Pelosi led the charge for political gain.

Now, when asked whether she was informed about certain interrogation techniques deemed to be torture by the new president, Ms. Pelosi literally has been unable to defend herself. Her responses to questions have been weak and unconvincing. Her political opponents say she is lying and should give up her position in the House.

At the end of his tenure, George Bush concluded that Gitmo was harmful to the reputation of our country to such an extent that it should be closed down. But he left the job of doing so to the next president.

Throughout the 2008 campaign, candidate Obama relentlessly criticized Gitmo. On numerous occasions, he promised that he would close the facility in one year. Recently, the new president began to have second thoughts about his campaign promise, especially after some members of Congress queried him about the relocation of the terrorists currently residing at Gitmo.

Recently, Congress refused to provide funding for the closing of the prison until Obama presented a credible plan to deal with the prisoners.

So, what does this have to do with Colorado? Maximum-security prisons are the only sensible places to imprison dangerous terrorists. And the only federally operated facility in the country specifically designed to house dangerous criminals is located in Florence, Colo. ADMAX is a 490-bed facility built in 1994 and currently the home of several mass murderers including Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber; Terry Nichols, an Oklahoma bomber; and Zacarias Mossauoi, an Al-Qaeda terrorist who played a lead role in the Sept. 11 attacks.

I assume there’s no risk that ADMAX prisoners could escape and threaten Coloradans, but do the citizens of the state really want to have some of the most dangerous people in the world as their neighbors? Newt Gingrich, playing the fear card on “Meet the Press,” indicated that a state that received these prisoners could be at risk of a terrorist attack.

This debate is picking up momentum rapidly, and Mr. Obama just may have to break one more campaign promise, having already broken at least two others – the promise to use public campaign funding and to never sign a bill into law that contains earmarks.

Sal Bommarito is a New Yorker who has skied Vail for 20 years. He periodically reports on national issues that affect Vailites. A former investment banker, he has published four novels.