President Donald trump, in the middle of his first State of the Union Address, announced that he had signed an order to keep the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba open. The order continues the prison as a counterterrorism tool and available for more terrorist prisoners. At its peak, the prison contained over 600 enemy combatants, terrorists taken on the battlefield and in commando raids. President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama between them released or transferred over 500, leaving just 41. Trump has suggested during the campaign that he would ship more terrorists to the prison for safe keeping and interrogation.

The left is not pleased

Naturally, many people and organizations on the left were not pleased with President Trump’s decision. The ACLU offered an angry tweet condemning the decision.

It should be noted that at the beginning of his administration, President Obama vowed to close Guantanamo. However, he was stymied in that desire by Congress, who balked at the idea of hardened terrorists being incarcerated on American soil.

The Obama administration then conducted a highly controversial policy of transferring terrorists to third parties or freeing them outright. In many cases, these terrorists wound up back on the battlefield attempting to kill Americans and their allies.

The reason for Trump’s order

The Obama administration, instead of attempting to capture terrorists for interrogation and intelligence gathering, pursued a policy of targeted killings, primarily through drone strikes, but in the case of Osama bin Laden, with a raid by SEAL Team 6.

While the policy served to degrade the effectiveness of terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS it deprived American intelligence of numerous assets which might have imparted information that would have been used for executing the long going war on terrorists.

Of course, since the captured terrorists do not belong to a recognized nation or army, the United States is of the view that it can detain them indefinitely, at will.

Neither Al Qaeda nor ISIS is likely to surrender, thus ending formal hostilities, allowing for the freeing of terrorist prisoners. Many of the terrorists at Guantanamo are too dangerous ever to be allowed at liberty again.

Putting some of the terrorists on trial for war crimes would indeed be an option. However, they tend not to have been captured according to recognized police procedures (i.e., read their rights and provided a lawyer). An American court might be obligated to free such prisoners if brought to trial regardless of their guilt or innocence.

The ACLU refers to “torture.” The term likely refers to the now discontinued practice of waterboarding, which involves strapping a prisoner to a chair, leaning him back, putting a cloth over his nose and mouth, and pouring water over the cloth. The effect is to provide a sensation of drowning. It is unlikely that the practice will be reintroduced.