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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

The following editorial appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Friday, July 24:
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One of President Barack Obama’s first acts in office was to promise that he would close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay in order to “restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great even in the midst of war, even in dealing with terrorism.” Six years later, the facility is still open, although the population has dwindled to 116, 52 of whom have been cleared for transfer if security conditions can be satisfied.

Part of the problem has been congressional obstructionism, but Obama also is to blame. Rather than veto defense authorization bills that limited his ability to transfer inmates, he has signed them, while raising questions about whether they intruded on his constitutional authority. And he hasn’t pressed the Defense Department hard enough to approve the release and resettlement of detainees who aren’t deemed a threat.

Now the White House says it is preparing to present Congress with a new plan to close the facility. That effort is welcome, but it will fully succeed only if the administration recognizes that the problem with Guantanamo isn’t just its location, but that the prison has become a symbol of a denial of due process.

Opposition to closing Guantanamo involves two issues. One is whether even “low-risk” detainees should be released to their homelands or to some other country. The other is whether inmates — including dozens of more dangerous detainees the administration says it can neither release nor try — should be moved to the United States. The administration argues persuasively that “supermax” prisons in this country provide adequate protection for public safety.

We agree with Obama that Guantanamo has been a stain on America’s reputation and a recruiting tool for terrorists. The administration should make good on its threat to veto a new National Defense Authorization Act if it makes it harder to release detainees or to shut down the prison. But even if the administration wins congressional support for closing the facility and accelerating the release of some detainees, it shouldn’t be content with simply relocating the rest and continuing to hold them without charge or trial.

In a 2013 speech, Obama acknowledged that indefinitely detaining suspected terrorists without a trial was a problem but said it could be resolved “consistent with our commitment to the rule of law.” The way to do so is to urgently revisit the question of whether supposedly high-risk detainees really pose a danger if they are released. The government should also take a fresh look at whether it really is impossible to prosecute some detainees because of missing or compromised evidence.

In the same speech, Obama warned that “history will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism and those of us who fail to end it.” The way to forestall such a judgment is to close Guantanamo and not reconstitute it elsewhere.

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: A guard tower of Camp Delta is seen at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba September 4, 2007. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was forced to defend President Donald Trump's recent attacks on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, an unenviable task she nevertheless intentionally signed up for. She desperately tried to divert the attention back to Scarborough — without engaging in the president's conspiracy theorizing — but offered no credible defense of the president's conduct.

Trump has been spreading the debunked theory that Scarborough killed a staffer in 2001 while he was in Congress, even though it was determined she died of natural causes. The staffer's widower wrote a released a letter on Tuesday pleading with Twitter to take down the president's offensive tweets promoting the thoery. He said he was "angry," "frustrated," and "grieved" by the president's promotion of the harmful allegations. Trump is perverting his late wife's memory, he said, and he fears her niece and nephews will encounter these attacks.When asked about the letter, McEnany said she wasn't sure if the president had seen it. But she said their "hearts" are with the woman's family "at this time." It was a deeply ironic comment because the only particularly traumatizing thing about "this time" for the family is the president's attacks, which come nearly two decades after the woman's death.

McEnany refused to offer any explanation of Trump's comments and instead redirected reporters to a clip of Scarborough on Don Imus's radio show in 2003. In that show, Imus made a tasteless joke obliquely referring to the death, and Scarborough laughed at it briefly.

"Why is the president making these unfounded allegations?" asked ABC News' Jonathan Karl. "I mean, this is pretty nuts, isn't it? The president is accusing someone of possible murder. The family is pleading with the president to please stop unfounded conspiracy theories. Why is he doing it?""The president said this morning, this is not an original Trump thought. And it is not," she said, bringing up the Imus clip. But she made no mention of why the president is bringing up the issue 17 years later and with a much larger platform.

When pressed further on the president's conduct, she again diverted blame to Scarborough, saying his morning show unfairly criticizes the president. But again, she offered no substantive defense of Trump.

After McEnany had moved on, PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor brought it up again: "Why won't the president give this widower peace and stop tweeting about the conspiracy theory involving his wife?"

McEnany said she had already answered the question, which she hadn't, and said the onus is on Scarborough to explain the Imus clip."The widower is talking specifically about the president!" Alcindor shot back. But McEnany called on Chanel Rion, with the aggressively pro-Trump outlet OAN, who changed the subject to conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia investigation.

"Are you not going to answer that?" Alcindor called out, still trying to get a substantive response to her question, but Rion spoke over her.

At the end of the briefing, another reporter asked whether Trump was looking for any actual law enforcement steps be taken in response to his conspiracy theory. But McEnany had nothing to add, and simply told people to listen to the Imus clip again. As she hurried out of the briefing room, a reporter asked if Trump would stop promoting the theory — but she left without answering.

Watch the exchange about Klausutis, which begins at 48:45.