- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Tomorrow, the House is expected to take up the defense appropriations bill, and despite the good news coming out of Iraq in recent days, the Democratic leadership is prepared to do everything it can to tack on amendments aimed at discrediting the war on terror. The chairman of House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. Jack Murtha, says he will offer an amendment to shut down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where approximately 360 jihadists captured abroad are being held. For years political opponents of the Bush administration led by organizations like the Center for Constitutional Rights, the hard-left outfit founded by attorney William Kunstler, have held that the overwhelming majority of Gitmo detainees are either innocents who were snatched up by unscrupulous bounty hunters for money and turned over to the U.S. military or low-level members of hostile groups who posed no real threat to U.S. military forces.

CCR and its political allies thought they had hit the jackpot in February 2006, when a report published by the Seton Hall University School of Law and a pair of attorneys representing detainees surveyed declassified information on persons who had been detained at Gitmo and concluded that only 8 percent had been characterized as al Qaeda fighters and that more than half of the detainees had not committed any hostile act against the United States. But a just-published study of the same data — 516 military hearings conducted in 2004 and 2005 to determine whether individual detainees should continue to be held as enemy combatants — suggests that the oft-cited Seton Hall study dramatically understated the danger posed by the detainees.

According to the new study, published by the Combatting Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point, 73 percent of the detainees were “demonstrated threats” to coalition forces; 95 percent represented at least a “potential threat” as an enemy combatant — defined as someone “who supported hostile activities or was affiliated with groups that executed and/or supported terrorist acts,” or received weapons training or possessed weapons that could be used in support of terrorist activities. The potential enemy combatants included people who were identified as fighters for al Qaeda or the Taliban; persons who received training at an al Qaeda or Taliban camp and ones who “ eceived training in the employment of combat weapons other than or in addition to rifles/small arms including grenades, rocket-propelled grenades, sniper rifles and the construction and/or deployment of explosives and [improvised explosive devices].”

When Mr. Murtha and advocates like Rep. Jim Moran make the case to shut down Gitmo, we hope that more responsible Democrats and Republicans will ask them serious questions about the jihadists at Guantanamo Bay. It would be interesting to know two things: Do they know how dangerous Gitmo detainees are, and where do they plan to send them if Gitmo is shut down?