Not McCain and Lieberman's finest hour

With Lindsey Graham, the two ask President Obama to halt the transfer of Yemeni detainees. There's just one problem

Published December 30, 2009 4:42PM (EST)

Following on the news that the man who attempted to bomb Northwest Flight 253 came by way of Yemen, and that an al-Qaida group based there has claimed responsibility, three senators had a request for President Obama. Sens. Lindsey Graham, Joe Lieberman and John McCain wrote to the president to express their concerns about the impending transfer of six Yemeni detainees from Guantánamo Bay.

"Given the security situation in Yemen and the failure of the Yemeni government to secure high-value prisoners in the past, we believe that any such transfers would be highly unwise and ill-considered. Recent events underscore why this is so," the three wrote.

"[W]e request an immediate halt to the transfer of all detainees to Yemen until the American people and the Congress can be assured of the security situation in that country. We must do everything in our power to ensure that these detainees do not pose a future threat to the United States. Until we are certain that released detainees will not return to the battlefield, all detainee transfers to Yemen should cease."

Now, I'll leave it to the reader to determine whether this is a good point on the part of Graham, Lieberman and McCain or whether it's a politically motivated call to close the barn door after the horses are miles away.

There is one piece of information that seems relevant to that determination, though: Turns out that the six detainees were actually repatriated about 10 days before the senators sent their letter to Obama. Apparently, no one on their staffs bothered to check on these sorts of details, much less talk to anyone in the administration, before trying to get some press for the request.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Guantanamo Joe Lieberman John Mccain R-ariz. Lindsey Graham Terrorism Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab