The debate on Guantanamo Bay

Prisoner treatment at Guantanamo Bay is a widely debated topic. From ordinary citizens to policy makers, the world over, all have divergent views on the US policy of treating Prisoners at its Guantanamo facility. The issue is not straight forward to achieve a synchronized view as it involves human rights, security concerns, legal and ethical issues. The developments of September 11 has brought extreme changes on security related issues for the first time which were difficult for people to comprehend them.

Although the terror attacks of September 11, is behind such radical moves, the necessity and the extent to which these can be allowed is a topic of open debate. The balancing act of civil liberty on one hand and national security interest on the other is today a topic of concern not only for the detainees but also for the common citizen. The methods adopted to address national security in the US must be perceived in the wider sphere of democratic functioning, politics and policy making.

The happenings at Guantanamo must be analyzed only against the backdrop of existing situation and current developments. Terrorists and law enforcement Today’s police and enforcement agencies in democratic societies have little freedom in their execution of their work. Although they are accountable for all lapses, they do not have the right to function freely. Too many formalities and involvement of a large number of people in the decision and operations process hinder counter terrorist operations. For instance payments to informers need to be signed and approved by relevant authorities.

Communication between terrorist suspects cannot be intercepted without relevant approvals through due processes. The success of counter terrorism in democratic societies is therefore mainly due to advanced computer technology and cooperation of the public in providing crucial leads, rather than the sole efforts of investigative agencies. Extradition of terrorists is another major problem associated with international terrorism (Whittaker, 2003). Governments are scared of retaliation and therefore hesitate to extradite terrorists. Some even release them after a token stay in prison.

In few cases, terrorists who lack influential protectors or who are considered useless by their outfits, are only extradited. Generally, counter terrorist efforts by democratic societies are only partially effective. As terrorist activities cannot be dictated by policies or diplomacy, terrorist acts will continue with increasing vengeance. The governments and all defense mechanisms are obviously on their toes to thwart off any unexpected threats. However irrespective of strengths and tactics adapted to countering terrorism, good intelligence is probably the best way to fight terrorists.

Access to information, which helps in analyzing the plans, ambitions and vulnerabilities of terrorists, is extremely difficult. But only such information can prevent horrible terrorists’ acts. Such information is gathered by several officers and agents working underground. It is also very essential to ensure that the data gathered is not leaked. Such leakages would not only reduce the value of the information and affect chances of getting new information, but also put the lives of its agents in danger. Today intelligence agencies like CIA recruit informants who have access to terrorist plans.

Sometimes even ex-terrorists or people who have committed crimes are also inducted as informants due to their access to information. These agencies have their exclusive process to assess the reliability and importance of potential informants. However government rules and procedures which mostly encourage recruiting tarnished informants, put hurdles in its practice. The CIA guidelines issued in 1995, requires approval of recruiting informants with human rights abuse background. Very often such approval process is a long and complex process (NCT, 1998).

The National Commission on Terrorism has recommended that the Director of Central Intelligence should point out to the CIA that recruitment of informants on terrorism is one of the highest priorities. The Commission also asked the director to issue a notification to make the1995 guidelines, ineffective. A 2002 Congressional inquiry into the American intelligence also determined that the CIA’s inability to break into the Al Qaeda leadership circles was only due to the agency’s hesitance to recruit informers with terrorist links.

Without informers who have access to top leadership, the CIA had no intelligence on the activities of the Al Qaeda, and thus had no clues to the attacks (Risen, 2002). The CIA had too many restrictions and complicated procedures in place, which dissuaded its ground officers from recruiting terrorist insiders as informers. These exhaustive 1995 guidelines had a huge setback for the ground officers, although they were diluted later.