Commentary Magazine


No Risk, They Say?

ABC News has an informative report, making clear what conservative critics of Obama’s policy of moving the terrorists to U.S. prisons have long argued: that once here, they pose to Americans a risk that did not exist when they were housed at Guantanamo. The report explains that while the Obama team is assuring us that we “have nothing to fear” from the detainees, the result, in at least two situations, is quite different:

They are supposed to be cut off from the outside world, but the man called the blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel Rahman, convicted of inspiring attacks on the U.S., used his lawyer to pass messages back to his violent followers in Egypt. But even a warning from the FBI to officials at this New York prison wasn’t enough to stop one al Qaeda terrorist, Mamdouh Salim, from making a bloody escape attempt in the year 2000. His victim was prison guard Louis Pepe who Salim first blinded with hot sauce stored up in these empty honey bottles he somehow hid in his cell. Then Salim stabbed Pepe in the eye with a sharpened comb that went deep into Pepe’s brain, causing permanent damage.

It is no wonder that Republicans are seizing on the issue and intend to make it a top 2010 campaign issue. As Sen. John Cornyn said bluntly, the president and Congress’s job is to “prevent future attacks and not just punish people after there’s dead bodies lying around.” And again, one comes back to why all of this risk and expense. It is not as if we’re going to be scoring any brownie points with anyone. We can expect to hear more of this:

“It’s a bleak and brutal existence that’s defined by, essentially an 8 x 10 rectangle in which they live,” said defense attorney Joshua Dratel, who defended al-Qaeda terrorist Wadih El-Hage, now serving life in Florence. “There is no socialization whatsoever and the isolation itself is extremely damaging.”

Maybe Congress will go along with this scheme, as it has so far with the KSM trial. But at some point those running for office may hear from voters who wonder why they are being endangered and for what possible benefit.