Friday, May 17, 2013

Parting Act: Hillary Clinton Left Obama a Roadmap Out of Gitmo

Upcoming on Barack Obama's agenda is a major speech that, at least in part, will address the roadblock out of Guantanamo.  With a hunger strike and force-feedings going on, retention of prisoners there has again risen to the radar of public attention, and civil rights activists are refueled.

In Daniel Klaidman's Newsweek article we learn that the master breaker of roadblocks, Hillary Clinton, in one of her final acts as secretary of state, drafted a detailed memo to the president asking him to resume the effort to close Gitmo and providing him with specific suggestions as to how objectives could be met.

None of this will come as any surprise to Hillary's loyalists who have always known that she is a woman of practical answers,  loyal to the administration, and would never hesitate to share what she thinks might be helpful.  In the end, this is a humanitarian issue, and, of course, Hillary would pitch in with any assistance she thought might be helpful.  That's our girl!

How Gitmo Imprisoned Obama

by Daniel Klaidman

One recent plea, two sources told Newsweek, came from Hillary Clinton, who, just before she left office in January 2013, sent a two-page confidential memo to Obama about Guantánamo. Clinton had, during her years in the administration, occasionally jumped into the fray to push her colleagues to do more on the issue. One of those occasions was at a White House meeting of Obama’s national-security principals in August 2010. “We are throwing the president’s commitment to close Guantánamo into the trash bin,” she chastised White House aides, according to three participants in the meeting. “We are doing him a disservice by not working harder on this.”

But at the end of the day, Clinton had little leverage to get the White House to act. Now, in one of her last moves as secretary of State, she was making a final effort to prod her boss to do more. Her memo was replete with practical suggestions for moving ahead on Gitmo. Chief among them: Obama needed to appoint a high-level official to be in charge of the effort, someone who had clout and proximity to the Oval Office. Further, Clinton argued that Obama could start transferring the 86 detainees who’d already been cleared for release. (Congress has imposed onerous restrictions on the administration’s ability to transfer Gitmo detainees—including a stipulation that the secretary of Defense certify that detainees sent to other countries would not engage in acts of terrorism. In her memo, Clinton pointed out that the administration could use “national-security waivers” to circumvent the restriction.)

The Clinton missive perturbed White House aides, who viewed it as an attempt to put them on the spot, according to a senior administration official. It’s unclear how Obama himself reacted to the memo; there’s no evidence that it spurred him to action. (The White House declined to comment for this story.) But whether or not the memo played a role in changing the president’s thinking, the mere fact that Clinton felt the need to write it was noteworthy, because it suggested the degree to which Guantánamo, four years into the Obama presidency, remained an irritant for her—and for many other high-level administration officials as well.

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