Thanks to Lynn Sweet, we now know who was responsible for placing the ban on federal funds for federal criminal trials of Guantanamo detainees in the National Defense Authorization Act. It was the Illinois Republican delegation, concerned about the rather remote possibility that the Obama administration would ultimately be moving detainees to the designated "Gitmo North" Thompson former correctional facility. In fact, the ban is almost a non-sequitur in this regard, except in the sense that it makes it more difficult to close Gitmo, both by banning trials and making voluntary transfers to countries with "known recidivists" conditional on the approval of the Secretary of Defense.
That's not the whole story though. Jen DiMascio reports that the Democrats acquiesced to the ban as part of a deal to go forward with repealing DADT:
That might have alienated liberals like Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), but he spoke on the House floor in support of the bill. Frank told POLITICO agreeing to ban detainee transfers was part of a larger House-Senate compromise that also involved passing "don’t ask don’t tell."
“I didn’t like that,” Frank said of the detainee transfer ban. But passing the bill to allow gays to serve openly in the military was more important, he said, adding that the detainee language would have returned in a spending bill. “We would have gotten stuck with that anyway.”
I don't know whether the administration blessed this deal. But as frustrating as the ban is, I'm not sure I wouldn't have exchanged a year without federal criminal trials of Gitmo detainees during a period when the White House was unlikely to bring any regardless, for the end of DADT. A frustrating setback for justice in return for an irreversible milestone on the road to equality for gays and lesbians?
It's an ugly trade, but I don't know what I would have done in the Democrats' place--especially since the outlines are so vague that we don't know how necessary it was. But on some level, the left really made a similar decisio. There's no question that some advocates would have had more resources to fight the Gitmo ban if they weren't running on both barrels trying to get DADT repeal through. The real danger is that the ban, like every "temporary" measure in the PATRIOT Act, becomes permanent in all but name.
It wasn't actually that long ago that some LGBT rights advocates like Richard Socarides were accusing the administration of caring more about the rights of Gitmo detainees than gay and lesbian Americans. Now you know they don't, congratulations.
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