Detention: Law of: Legislative Development

That's Not Constructive

By Benjamin Wittes
Tuesday, February 22, 2011, 2:27 PM

House Republicans have seen the enemy, and it is Daniel Fried--the State Department special envoy who has been trotting around the globe for the last two years trying to persuade other countries to help the United States resettled Guantanamo detainees. An amendment to H.R. 1 adopted by the House the other day on a 249 - 179 vote reads as follows:

Sec. __. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to pay the salaries and expenses for the . . . Special Envoy to oversee the closure of the Detention Center at Guantanamo Bay. 

This especially stupid and destructive piece of legislation is the handiwork of one Rep. Steven Scalise (La.), who included Fried as part of a list of "Czars" he wants to defund.

I'm not sure Lawfare readers need an explanation of how dumb this idea is, but for those who do, here goes:

The task of resettling those at Guantanamo whom the United States does not need to hold was a project of the last administration--which made enormous strides towards reducing the population--and it is a project as well of the current administration. Because of Obama's promise to close Guantanamo and because of the good will he generated among European countries who were not keen to help out the Bush administration, Obama has had resettlement opportunities that were not available to the prior administration. And Ambassador Fried and his staff have done a remarkable job in removing people from Guantanamo who either pose little or no threat or whose threat can reasonably be managed by means short of detention. As I have said before, this is the one area of Obama's Guantanamo closure policy that has gone better than people like me expected it to. Unless Rep. Scalise and his colleagues want to be stuck with all Guantanamo detainees forever, and want eventually to taunt the Supreme Court into ordering their release into the United States, they ought to think better of this. It's a really mindless move, for which I can think of not a single good argument.

Oh, and riddle me this: Will the White House be able to muster itself even to threaten a veto this time?