As Congress moves to authorize the US military to intervene against dissidents at home, it is well to remember the scale of the gulag already bulging with incarcerated terrorism suspects, mostly Muslim, already on permanent lockdown. (New York Times, December 11, 2011)
- Massive detention. At Guantanamo, only 171 detainees remain, compared to 362 in federal prisons held on “terrorism-related” convictions, up from fifty in 2000.
- Significant costs. The cost at Guantanamo is $25,000 per year while the bill is $800,000 per year in a federal high-security prison.
- Special units for Muslims. Federal prison officials are accused in court filings of creating Muslim-dominated units with limitations on group prayer, fostering solidarity among inmates.
- Releases after questionable charges Three hundred prisoners have been released since 2001, mainly those convicted on “material support” which can mean advocacy in meetings including police informants. Half have been deported, the rest are “blended into communities around the country.”
- Recidivism low. The Pentagon claims that 25 percent released from Guantanamo are “known” or “suspected” of joining militant groups, while it is “extraordinarily rare” for the prison inmates to “plot violence after their release.”
Despite the surreal world of politics, it would appear that the calls for military tribunals and denunciations of civilian courts are wildly inflated for partisan ends. But few if any candidates want to risk being called “soft on terrorism.”