Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, plummeting in the polls, is emerging as the neocon candidate of choice. Marc Thiessen, trying his best to shoehorn his inaccurate characterization of Obama administration detention policy as "catch and release," into the GOP Primary conversation gives Pawlenty a chance to bear his spittle flecked comb:
“I think that is preposterous,” Pawlenty told me, adding that he will end such a catch-and-release policy if he is elected president. Pawlenty also said he would keep Guantanamo prison open and start bringing terrorists there, as well as to other facilities, for interrogation again. He would restore enhanced interrogation “under certain and controlled and limited circumstances.” As for civilian trials for terrorists, Pawlenty said: “We are engaged in the war on terror. [When] we are in the battlefield in Afghanistan or Iraq or its operational equivalent in some other place, and we apprehend somebody who is a suspected enemy combatant, the proper place for that person to be processed and questioned and prosecuted is not our civilian courts.”
Poor Thiessen. Here's a candidate who wants to expand Guantanamo and bring back torture, and his biggest problem with Republican voters is that they think he's not manly enough. Now he's reduced to reprising Mitt Romney's most awkward expressions of feigned toughness from four years ago.
Just to reiterate: The phrase "catch and release," a euphemism that actually means you charge people with crimes or you let them go, is the preferred policy of the American Civil Liberties Union when it comes to dealing with terrorists. Obama on the other hand, has a policy of indefinite military detention for individuals captured on what he deems "the battlefield," which is basically the entire planet. He has released far fewer suspected terrorist detainees than Bush who released more than 500. Last week Thiessen mischaracterized the testimony of JSOC Commander Admiral William McRaven by saying "because the United States has no place to hold captured terrorists we have simply been letting them go." In fact what McRaven said was that was a mere possibility, not that it had happened.
Here's the funny thing, when Pawlenty says that "[When] we are in the battlefield in Afghanistan or Iraq or its operational equivalent in some other place, and we apprehend somebody who is a suspected enemy combatant, the proper place for that person to be processed and questioned and prosecuted is not our civilian courts," he is for the most part stating Obama administration policy, except that the administration wants to reserve the right to make the choice of forum on its own. President Pawlenty would too, and frankly Republicans would let him, just like they let Thiessen's former boss.
At any rate, Jeremy Scahill's discovery of a Somali detention facility being operated by the CIA and Somali intelligence forces makes Thiessen and Pawlenty's complaint sound even dumber, since it highlights what the U.S. has actually been doing instead of transferring detainees to Gitmo: It has been relying on host country authorities do so, a process that is even more opaque, secretive, and devastating to the individual rights of detainees than transferring them to Gitmo.
You'd really be hardpressed to find daylight between Bush and Obama on this stuff beyond Gitmo and torture, but Thiessen is too bitter and too partisan to realize that as far as national security policy is concerned, he's getting almost everything he could possibly want.