Guantanamo's Back

Appearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday, the head of the CIA, Leon Panetta, gave a glimpse into the administration’s plans for dealing with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri should they be captured as well as the future of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. He said that the two top al-Qaeda players would most likely be moved to the Bagram base outside of Kabul and then on to Gitmo. Upon taking office, President Obama vowed to close the detention center in Cuba, and the administration hasn’t moved any new inmates into the facility. But according to some, it would seem that Obama’s team has realized that Guantanamo is necessary. After Panetta’s testimony, a CIA spokesperson aid that his comments were not the final word on the situation.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday that “it is difficult for me to imagine circumstances in which we would send US ground forces” into the Middle East to help settle the ongoing unrest. He said that the turmoil posed a “diplomatic challenge,” not a military one. Gates was speaking before the House Armed Services Committee.

And Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, also appearing before Congress, cited the “incalculable value” of U.S. aid to Egypt’s military. It has done a great deal to help craft the professional service today, he said, urging lawmakers to consider any changes in assistance “with an abundance of caution and a thorough appreciation for the long view, rather than in the flush of public passion and the urgency to save a buck.” Not doing so would be “foolhardy,” he added.

After her discussion of Internet freedom earlier this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton focused on the efforts of NGOs and other parts of civil society to fight repression. Specifically, a USAID fund that aims to help protect civil society from censorship will be beefed up—from $1.5 million to $3.4 million. Clinton said, “If we’re going to take advantage of this historic moment, we have to tap the expertise, experience and energy of civil society.” Closer to home, two of Secretary Clinton’s major fundraisers were indicted yesterday for reimbursing donors.