Bagram As Obama's Guantanamo

ABC's Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) asks whether the Bagram detention facility in Afghanistan will turn into a black hole-like-legal-morass for President Obama in much the same way that Guantanamo Bay did. I think the question is too narrow: it's whether the government can figure out a plan to try to dispose of detainees in Bagram and Iraq before combat hostilities end.

That's what one of the president's detainee task forces is charged with doing. As Tapper notes, the administration refuses to give basic information about the status of Bagram detainees, including their number. The White House referred comment to the Pentagon, which said nothing. This deferral isn't surprising; Bagram is not Guantanamo. Putting aside the question of how prisoners are treated there -- a very important question, to be sure -- Bagram is located in the middle of an active, universally accepted, legitimate battlefield. The same goes for prisons in Iraq. Some folks with knowledge of the numbers suggest that upwards of 3,000 ostensibly bad folks are being held at Bagram and in American detention facilities in Iraq. The Pentagon's detainee affairs staff is the controlling legal authority. Problem: we're pulling troops out of Iraq. Major combat operations might actually be over, soon. The U.S. has to figure out what to do with the Iraqi prisoners. The obvious answer: release them. All of them. But -- some of those released will probably be transferred into the custody of Iraq, and the legalities of those transfers are unclear. It's quite possible that some of those released will be the target of vigilantes, or, maybe, they'll be tortured by the Iraqi government. For those who aren't tried in tribunals, the U.S. could try to repatriate them ... or keep them in jail. It's a GTMO like problem on a much greater scale -- and it's why the issue is so sensitive right now for the administration.