That Osama Bin Laden was killed rather than captured allowed President Obama to dodge a very awkward problem: Where to take the al Qaeda leader after his arrest? When administration officials were asked this in February as a hypothetical question, they didn't have an answer, and no doubt they were relieved on May 1 not to need one. But unless the president wants to kill every terrorist on the spot going forward, the mess that is U.S. detention policy needs to be cleared up.
In February, when the Senate Intelligence Committee asked CIA Director Leon Panetta where captured high-level al Qaeda leaders would be taken, he responded: "We would probably move them quickly into military jurisdiction at Bagram for questioning and then, eventually, move them probably to Guantanamo." The administration refused to endorse Panetta's position, but couldn't provide an alternative. "I'm not going to speculate about what, you know, would happen if we were to capture Osama bin Laden," was Press Secretary Jay Carney's reply.
Carney's split with Panetta stems from the promise President Obama made on January 22, 2009, that "Guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now." While that hasn't happened – and Attorney General Holder has even announced that 9.11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) will be tried in military courts on the base – the administration hasn't brought any new prisoners there.
Instead, most captives who previously would have been brought to Guantanamo are today taken to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, nicknamed the "new Guantanamo." (Others captured have been handed over to U.S. allies.) While Bagram has sufficed for the past few years, this arrangement will end when the U.S. hands control of the country back to the Afghanis – this drawdown is slated to begin in July. President Karzai has made it clear that U.S. detention facilities will close when the troops depart.