Guantanamo Detainees Will Get Parole-Style Hearings—Eventually

A late-night announcement that Gitmo detainees will get hearings raises more questions than it answers.

A late-night announcement that Gitmo detainees will get hearings raises more questions than it answers.

WaPo (“At Guantanamo, 71 Detainees Will Get Parole-Style Hearings“):

Seventy-one detainees at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay will get parole-board-style hearings at the Navy base in Cuba, the Pentagon said Sunday, though it did not say when the panels will meet, whether the media can watch and which of the long-held inmates will go first.

The disclosure followed a flurry of e-mails after 10 p.m. Friday from Pentagon bureaucrats notifying attorneys for some of the 71 inmates that the government was preparing to hold the hearings, which were ordered by President Obama two years ago.

Retired Rear Adm. Norton C. Joerg, a senior Navy lawyer during the George W. Bush administration, told the lawyers that the new six-member “periodic review boards” will not decide whether the Pentagon is lawfully imprisoning their clients.

Rather, the panels will “assess whether continued law of war detention is necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States,” Joerg said.

He offered no explanation for the late-night notices, which came during a long-running hunger strike by prisoners at Guantanamo over the conditions of their detention.

As of Sunday, the military said 46 detainees were malnourished enough to require forced feedings, which currently are conducted after dark in consideration of the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn until dusk.

Once the daily fasting hours are over, according to prison spokesmen, Navy medical personnel offer to let a hunger striker drink a nutritional supplement before shackling him to a chair and snaking a tube up his nose and into his stomach to deliver the drink.

This story appears on page 4 of the print edition, which should be a good indicator of how trivial the progress here is. Aside from whatever due process objections one might have, the most obvious unanswered question here is: What happens to those prisoners who get “parole”? They’re not American citizens, obviously, or otherwise eligible to immigrate to the United States. And the fact that their home countries don’t want them back has been an obstacle to getting the process started for years.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jenos Idanian says:

    Parole for prisoners of war is an old and honorable practice. But applying it here strikes me as… unwise. It was based on both captor and prisoner having a strong sense of honor, and respect, both for themselves and the other. I just don’t see that holding here. Plus, the recidivism rate among former Gitmo detainees is quite high.

    I don’t know for sure what the solution for Gitmo is, but I can tell this is not it.

  2. ernieyball says:

    @Jenos Idanian: You’re such a righteous fellow, I’m sure you can set them straight. How about we let them live with you?

  3. Franklin says:

    But what about the completely innocent, Jenos?

  4. Jenos Idanian says:

    What part of “I don’t know for sure what the solution is” don’t you two idiots not understand?

    But if they’d just gone ahead with the military tribunals, that probably would have worked out. At least worked out better than the current stalemate. After all, Obama pledged to close down Gitmo within his first year in office, and it’s only been 4 1/2 years since then…

  5. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian: Ooh, nice pivot there. You say something stupid — “Gosh, POWs in the old days had a sense of honor — that’s why we let them go!” — get your butt handed to you, so it’s time to blame Obama for something.

    Maybe it’s time to come up with a new identity, “Jenos.” This one has gotten sadly predictable.