- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Freeing terrorists

“During the final months of the Bush administration, top U.S. counterterrorism officials engaged in an intense debate about the fate of the Yemenis detained at Guantanamo Bay,” Stephen F. Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn write in the Weekly Standard.

“There are a lot of them there - nearly 100 out of the total population of 248- and most can be directly tied to al Qaeda’s global terror network. Barack Obama’s Gitmo problem is, in many respects, a Yemen problem. And it just got worse,” the writers said.

“In an interview with a Saudi newspaper last week, Yemen’s foreign minister, Abu Bakr al Qirbi, was asked about the jihadist rehabilitation program his government is setting up to facilitate the return of Yemeni detainees. …

“The problem, according to al Qirbi, isn’t that the detainees are committed jihadists who might well commit further acts of violence. It’s that the United States treated them so harshly that they might have trouble adjusting to life back in Yemen. …

“A majority of the Yemeni detainees in Guantanamo were trained for fighting and directly supported the terror network’s operations. Yemen is not a country that can be reasonably expected to house and rehabilitate these detainees. And yet this appears to be the policy of the Obama administration.

“The U.S. ambassador to Yemen, Stephen Seche, said recently that he hoped a ‘majority’ of the nearly 100 Yemeni detainees held at Guantanamo Bay would be returned to their native land so that they might ‘integrate themselves back into their own society with their families and make a future for themselves here.’ A State Department spokesman told the Weekly Standard that Seche’s comments reflect the views of the Obama administration.”

Gregg’s reasons

Sen. Judd Gregg looked a little sheepish and sounded more than vague Thursday about his reasons for withdrawing his nomination to be Commerce secretary,” John Fund writes at www.opinionjournal.com.

“He was asked whether he had pulled his name in response to the White House’s decision to take away Commerce’s control of the Census after left-wing groups complained about a Republican being in charge of the all-important national headcount. ‘The census was only a slight catalyzing issue. It was not a major issue,’ he said, refusing to discuss his concerns in detail.

“My own sources say the unilateral decision of the Obama White House to transfer oversight of the Census to the White House was the final straw in Mr. Gregg’s disillusionment with the idea of joining the Obama Cabinet. CNN’s Jessica Yellin confirmed that view Thursday night when she reported: ‘Sources close to Senator Gregg say the bigger issue for him was the White House’s effort to take control of the Census.’

“The dispute became a dealbreaker for the Gregg nomination after it became clear liberal groups haven’t given up their dream of using computer models and ‘sampling’ techniques to adjust the Census count upward to make up for supposedly ‘missing people’ not picked up by Census enumerators. Those ‘adjusted’ numbers would have real political significance because they are used to redraw Congressional and state legislative districts and allocate federal money. …

“When President Obama met with Sen. Gregg at the White House on Wednesday, he could have simply told him he hadn’t known of the White House power grab and that the Census Bureau would continue to report directly to the Commerce secretary. But he didn’t, which played a major role in Mr. Gregg’s decision to withdraw. Given a choice between his vaunted ‘new politics’ and the left-wing pressure groups that were demanding White House influence over the Census, Mr. Obama made a clear choice to side with the liberal base of his party.”

More questions

“Sunday afternoon, Roland Burris told a roomful of Chicago reporters that his plainly inconsistent sworn statements about his dealings with cronies of a now-defrocked governor aren’t … inconsistent. We watched from a few feet away as the nervous senator sought refuge in Clintonian semantic distinctions: My first affidavit was limited to this, my sworn testimony was limited to that, and so on,” the Chicago Tribune said Monday in an editorial.

“We hope the people of Illinois eventually learn all there is to know about Burris’ contacts with Rod Blagojevich’s associates before the governor appointed Burris to the Senate. Burris’ evolving discussion of those contacts raises more questions than it resolves,” the newspaper said.

“That’s troubling: Burris was so desperate for the job that he accepted it from a man accused of trying to sell it. Yet Burris had to know in December what his attorney acknowledged Sunday: His conversations with Blagojevich insiders may have been recorded by the FBI.

“So why didn’t Burris long ago volunteer the whole truth about those conversations? Maybe because coming clean about all his talks with the sleazy Blagojevich operation would have doomed his chance of being seated in the Senate.

“Remember, Democratic Sens. Harry Reid and Dick Durbin conditioned the acceptance of Burris as a senator on his full candor with the Illinois House impeachment panel about all matters Blagojevich.”

The newspaper added: “State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, chairwoman of the impeachment panel, should have made Burris’ Feb. 5 affidavit public the moment she received it. She now should refer this saga of Burris’ evolving statements to Sangamon County prosecutors. They can determine whether Burris’ latest (and third) version of events invites a charge of perjury based on his sworn statements to the panel.”

Joining the team

“Chicago Tribune’s Jill Zuckman joins President Obama’s administration as the Department of Transportation’s director of public affairs and assistant to Secretary Ray LaHood,” Media Bistro reports at www.mediabistro.com.

“Zuckman was a Washington-based correspondent at the Tribune and also made frequent appearances on MSNBC and Fox News,” the Web site said.

“She is the second Tribune reporter to take a job in the administration. Peter Gosselin is now the chief speech writer for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. This move is somewhat of a trend - Jay Carney, formerly of Time Magazine, is now Vice President Biden’s communications director and CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta is supposedly among the top picks to become the next surgeon general.”

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or e-mail Greg Pierce.

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