The Washington Times' Frank Gaffney wrote of 17 Uighur detainees currently held at Guantánamo Bay: “There is another group of dangerous aliens Obama seems determined to unleash on the American people.” However, the Bush administration reclassified those detainees as “no longer enemy combatants.”
In his May 12 Washington Times column, Frank Gaffney Jr. wrote of 17 Uighur detainees currently held at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility: “There is another group of dangerous aliens [President] Obama seems determined to unleash on the American people: [Secretary of Homeland Security Janet] Napolitano's organization may have to cope in the near future with 17 Chinese Uigars [sic] trained in terrorism in Afghanistan.” In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, the Bush administration reclassified all 17 detainees belonging to the Uighur ethnic group from western China as “no longer enemy combatants” following a June 2008 appeals court ruling finding that one of the detainees, Huzaifa Parhat, did not merit enemy combatant status.
After the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the Uighurs' release into the United States in October 2008, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned that decision in a February 18 opinion, in which the majority summarized the Uighurs' situation:
In the Parhat case, the [appeals] court ruled that the government had not presented sufficient evidence that the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement was associated with al Qaida or the Taliban, or had engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners. Parhat, 532 F.3d at 850. Parhat therefore could not be held as an enemy combatant. The government saw no material differences in its evidence against the other Uighurs, and therefore decided that none of the petitioners should be detained as enemy combatants.
Releasing petitioners to their country of origin poses a problem. Petitioners fear that if they are returned to China they will face arrest, torture or execution. United States policy is not to transfer individuals to countries where they will be subject to mistreatment. Petitioners have not sought to comply with the immigration laws governing an alien's entry into the United States. Diplomatic efforts to locate an appropriate third country in which to resettle them are continuing. In the meantime, petitioners are held under the least restrictive conditions possible in the Guantanamo military base.
The appeals court panel majority held that the federal courts lacked the authority to order the government to release the Uighurs into the United States:
The government has represented that it is continuing diplomatic attempts to find an appropriate country willing to admit petitioners, and we have no reason to doubt that it is doing so. Nor do we have the power to require anything more.
From Gaffney's May 12 Washington Times column:
There is another group of dangerous aliens Mr. Obama seems determined to unleash on the American people: Ms. Napolitano's organization may have to cope in the near future with 17 Chinese Uigars trained in terrorism in Afghanistan. They have been held in recent years at Guantanamo Bay and reportedly are slated for release in Alexandria. In addition, although legislators of both parties increasingly are voicing objections, the president's decision to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay without a plan for its detainees seems likely, all other things being equal, to result in many of them coming to penitentiaries here -- at who knows what risk to the American people?