In a report for Thursday's NBC Today, investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff reported on plans for a $150 million renovation of the Guantanamo Bay prison still housing 166 terror detainees and sympathetically described how "despite improvements in recent years" of the facility, "the detainees' hopes of getting released were crushed when President Obama stopped talking about closing it." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Isikoff noted that some of the detainees were "engaged in a hunger strike...as an attempt to regain attention." A sound bite played of new the commanding general of the prison expressing his frustration with President Obama: "Nothing in the inauguration speech about closing it. Nothing in the State of the Union. You know, he's not re-staffing the office that was, you know, focused on closing or transferring."
During the last administration, CBS anchor Bob Schieffer was a red-hot advocate of closing the terrorist holding pen at Guantanamo. "This is just a boil. It's a cancer. This thing is not doing anybody any good,” he ranted on MSNBC’s Imus In The Morning show on June 9, 2005.
Schieffer’s ardor cooled considerably once Obama was elected. Will Schieffer bring up the “cancer” of Gitmo in tonight’s debate? Back in the Bush years, he repeatedly suggested it made us just like the terrorists we were fighting. Here’s how the Imus rant continued:
Nicholas Kristof's Sunday column on Guantanamo prisoners, "A Prison of Shame, and It's Ours," makes the case, in typically arch prose, that his New York Times colleague Barry Bearak got off easy. The Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe imprisoned Bearak in disgusting conditions for four days, but Kristof thought it could have been worse: It could have been Guantanamo Bay.
My Times colleague Barry Bearak was imprisoned by the brutal regime in Zimbabwe last month. Barry was not beaten, but he was infected with scabies while in a bug-infested jail. He was finally brought before a court after four nights in jail and then released.
Alas, we don't treat our own inmates in Guantánamo with even that much respect for law. On Thursday, America released Sami al-Hajj, a cameraman for Al Jazeera who had been held without charges for more than six years. Mr. Hajj has credibly alleged that he was beaten, and that he was punished for a hunger strike by having feeding tubes forcibly inserted in his nose and throat without lubricant, so as to rub tissue raw.