DNI Dennis Blalir held his first press conference on Thursday (transcript here), and he even managed to make news. The Associated Press buries the news in a story headlined “Official: Mexico not in danger of collapse.” The AP blandly attributes the assessment of Mexico to an “official” because nobody knows who Dennis Blair is.
Not yet anyway. If you consume your news on the Internet, you might know Blair as the “official” who appointed the Saudi/Manchurian candidate to head the National Intelligence Council. Ben Smith reports that Blair blamed Freeman’s withdrawal on “powerful bloggers” who managed to scuttle the appointment.
As Director of National Intelligence, Blair is one of the senior officers in the United States government. He will become better known in time. It won’t take long if he continues to share the Obama administration’s thinking on the release of Guantanamo detainees in the United States. Here was Blair at his press conference on Thursday:
QUESTION: On the disposition of the prisoners at Gitmo, you’ve got some options, and none of them are really great. You give them to governments overseas who may jail them or release them, and we’ve seen some of what’s happened there. There’s some talk about releasing, or putting some in U.S. jails.
DIRECTOR BLAIR: Right.
QUESTION: Possibly releasing some inside the United States, the Justice Department talked a little bit about perhaps releasing the Uighurs in the U.S., or at least some of them. What criteria are you using to make those determinations, and what – if anyone is released into the U.S., what kind of follow-up will you do with them for security and what kind of assistance would you give them to sort of get them started in our country?
DIRECTOR BLAIR: I probably couldn’t describe the process any better than you just did. We are building dossiers on each of the detainees in Guantanamo that puts together all of the information we have about them. We’re developing a process to make an evaluation of what can be done with them, given the options that we have.
And in the case of each of those – each of the, those options, we are in fact thinking through the additional measures that have to be taken, some of which you cited. If they are sent to another country, we have to be sure that that country will treat them in a humane fashion. So that’s part of the – that’s part of the consideration. If they are to be detained in the United States after some sort of process that determines that they are too dangerous to let out, or have committed offenses that merit punishment, we have to worry about where they’re put and what the effect is on the – what that effect might be on the place where they’re placed.
If we are to release them in the United States, you can’t just sort of, as you said, put them on the street and there, but we need some sort of assistance to them to start a new life and not return to some of the conditions that may have inspired them in the first place. So all that is a work in progress. It’s under intense timeline because a year is not a very long time to go through that complexity. So all that’s in process.
Not perceiving that assistance to our misunderstood friends at Guantanamo might be something of a bombshell, the reporters apprently let Blair leave it there. Tom Joscelyn has four follow-up questions:
1) Does this mean that the Obama administration is planning on giving some freed Guantanamo detainees a stipend? It sure appears that way. So, not only is the Obama administration planning on freeing some detainees on U.S. soil, it is also going to pay them to live here. Amazing. Who would have thought that we would see the day when detainees who were once labeled enemy combatants would be receiving welfare?
(2) The Uighur detainees are cited, over and over again, as the types of detainees who can be safely released into the U.S. This conclusion has been reached through a combination of specious reasoning and ignorance.
None of the 17 Uighurs are master terrorists on par with the likes of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. They were mostly new recruits at the time of their capture. However, as I have argued before, they are all affiliated with and/or members of a designated terrorist organization, received training at a training camp in the al Qaeda/Taliban stronghold of Tora Bora, and have admitted that they were trained by two known terrorists. And, on top of that, the group that trained them threatened to attack the Olympic Games in China last year.
Even if you don’t think that we should lock them up and throw away the key, do we really want to pay them to live on U.S. soil?
(3) The AP says the United States can’t find a country to take the Uighurs, other than China, which may treat them harshly. But that really remains to be seen. Ireland, for example, has apparently offered to take some Guantanamo detainees. Other European nations have been somewhat more reticent.
(4) Is the Obama administration considering paying other Guantanamo detainees to live in the U.S. as well?
All good questions and observations. On welfare for Guantanamo detainees, I’m surprised Blair didn’t adopt the formulation of reporter Kevin Chapelle at Obama’s press conference this past Tuesday. Chappelle cited a report to the effect that “1 in 50 children are [sic] now homeless in America.” Chapelle vividly worried about children sleeping in tents and under bridges during the current recession. We don’t want those released terrorists sleeping in tents and under bridges, do we?