According to the Pentagon only about 60 of the 250 detainees at Guantanamo could be released relatively safely, and that only 80 of the rest could face trial by “military commissions.” The New York Times reported this week that President-elect Barack Obama appears “to have rejected a proposal to seek a new law authorizing indefinite detention inside the United States.” National Journal‘s Stuart Taylor the connects some dots:

This seems to imply that Obama will either continue to rely on Bush’s legal arguments for continued detention without charges — arguments that many Obama supporters have assailed — or yield to the demands of left-leaning human-rights groups that he release any and all Guantanamo detainees who cannot be criminally prosecuted.

If seeking a new detention law has been ruled out … Obama would have only two options for dealing with the 100 or so apparently-dangerous-but-perhaps-not-prosecutable detainees.

The first option would be to continue Bush’s military detention of these men as “enemy combatants,” presumably in the mainland United States. … The second option would be to release or transfer to other countries all of those who cannot be prosecuted. That group could include men such as these:

Abd al Rahman al Zahri, who the government claims had prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks and who declared at a military hearing: “I’m not one of [Osama bin Laden’s] men and not one of his individuals. I am one of his sons. I will kill myself for him and will also give my family and all of my money to him…. With the help of God, we will stand mujahedeen and terrorists against Americans.”

Mohammed al Qahtani, who, the public evidence strongly suggests, was sent by Al Qaeda from London to Orlando, Fla., to be the 20th hijacker in the 9/11 suicide attacks. He was turned back by an alert immigration agent at the Orlando airport on August 4, 2001, while Mohamed Atta was waiting to meet him. Qahtani has become a cause celebre among human-rights groups because he was subjected in 2002 to what many call torture. Susan Crawford, the senior official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo detainees to trial, dismissed all charges against him last May. She recently told The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward that she would not allow any new charges to go forward because “we tortured Qahtani.” But she added: “He’s a very dangerous man. What do you do with him now if you don’t charge him and try him? I would be hesitant to say, ‘Let him go.’ ” The left-leaning Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents Qahtani, has said that he “should be sent back to Saudi Arabia’s highly successful custodial rehabilitation program.”

Mohammad Ahmed Abdullah Saleh al Hanashi, who is probably more typical of the apparently-dangerous-but-perhaps-not-prosecutable group. He was Taliban cannon fodder. He admitted during a military hearing, “I was with the Taliban” and said he fought on the front lines against the Northern Alliance. Men such as him may be unlikely recruits for terrorist attacks against the U.S. but might well, if released, rejoin Taliban attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan.