Gitmo Chief: Detainees Should’ve Been POWs

In Retrospect Open-Ended Detention Not a Great Plan

Guantanamo Bay’s head jailor William Lietzau, in charge of the indefinite detention of a lot of people long-since cleared for release and being force-fed because they’re engaged in a hunger strike protest, has given an interview conceding what an awful trainwreck the facility has become.

Lietzau admits that it would’ve made a lot more sense to declare the captives “prisoners of war” 12 years ago and gone through an actual, legal avenue for trials, saying civilian courts would be much better than military tribunals.

“They have many advantages,” Lietzau said of real courts, adding that if they’d gone the POW route they could conceivably declare an end to hostilities and then prosecute or release them.

All the things that would’ve been ethical or legal seem like a much better idea in retrospect, as the current scheme is an increasingly expensive unending disaster. Lietzau may have regretted playing a major role in setting up this quagmire, but refused to comment on what he’d do now to undo the problem, focusing instead on what he’d do if he had a time machine that could get him back into late 2001.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.