Commentary Magazine


Topic: Guantanamo facility

RE: RE: No Risk, They Say?

Max, the threat that detainees transferred to the U.S. would be released by federal courts and the risk that the severe restrictions on terrorists’ access to their comrades outside prison would be lifted are two of the principal reasons why Guantanamo was selected to hold terrorists.

As to the first issue, 1993 World Trade Center bombing prosecutor Andy McCarthy explains:

Tuesday’s decision brings closer the day that federal courts will begin releasing trained terrorists to live, and plot, among us. Most (though not all) judges have been reluctant to issue such orders because the terrorists have been outside the U.S. and their admission is barred by statute. Once they are physically here, that reluctance will vanish.

In fact, indefinite detention is incompatible with normal rules of the criminal-justice system, so it is not only possible but probable that court actions will be brought to spring these people. One lower court has already issued such an order, although it was overruled on appeal. The government is not always fortunate to draw a reasonable appellate panel of judges. That is why the Obama team issued a curious promise: if a federal court releases the detainees, they will try these terrorists or whisk them back out of the country. In defiance of a court order? Even if possible, it makes a mockery of the legal system the Obama team is ostensibly defending. And in any event, it reveals that the administration realizes that the risk of release goes up when they are transferred to U.S. soil.

Second, the Richard Reid case demonstrates how little fortitude the administration has when it comes to limiting mail, visitors, and other means of spreading propaganda or assisting with plots outside the U.S. The restrictions that the government imposed on Reid were lifted after a legal challenge and a 58-day hunger strike by Reid. We can anticipate similar challenges by those who, once in the U.S., will seek judicial relief in lifting allegedly “inhumane” restrictions on them.

As to the supposed benefits that are derived from shuttering Guantanamo, I simply don’t buy that the location of the detention facility matters to anyone. The ACLU and leftists have already made clear in public statements and pleadings that they object to the indefinite detention. The terrorists themselves need no excuse to butcher Americans, and certainly didn’t when they devised the 9/11 plot. Moreover, given that the conditions under which they will be held in Illinois are far less cushy than those at Guantanamo — no gourmet menus or exercise bikes, no sunny yard to stroll in — the grievances are likely to increase. The argument will be made, with some justification, that we will be making the lives of detainees worse and their conditions less humane. And on this one, I will have to agree.

As with so much that the Obama team dream up with regard to the war on terror — trying KSM in civilian court, limiting enhanced interrogation, releasing interrogation memos, and now moving detainees to U.S. soil — the supposed gains depend on accepting the notion that we will get “credit” for tying our own hands and creating security risks for our own citizens. The president, if he were so concerned about our image, could — as he did privately with 9/11 families — talk publicly about how safe and, yes, just is the Guantanamo facility. It is the president’s job to dispel false and malicious propaganda, not to buy into it. Rebutting the unfair and false attacks on Guantanamo, rather than ushering in a Brave New World of dangerous and unpredictable litigation by terrorists, would seem to be a better use of the president’s time and energy.

Max, the threat that detainees transferred to the U.S. would be released by federal courts and the risk that the severe restrictions on terrorists’ access to their comrades outside prison would be lifted are two of the principal reasons why Guantanamo was selected to hold terrorists.

As to the first issue, 1993 World Trade Center bombing prosecutor Andy McCarthy explains:

Tuesday’s decision brings closer the day that federal courts will begin releasing trained terrorists to live, and plot, among us. Most (though not all) judges have been reluctant to issue such orders because the terrorists have been outside the U.S. and their admission is barred by statute. Once they are physically here, that reluctance will vanish.

In fact, indefinite detention is incompatible with normal rules of the criminal-justice system, so it is not only possible but probable that court actions will be brought to spring these people. One lower court has already issued such an order, although it was overruled on appeal. The government is not always fortunate to draw a reasonable appellate panel of judges. That is why the Obama team issued a curious promise: if a federal court releases the detainees, they will try these terrorists or whisk them back out of the country. In defiance of a court order? Even if possible, it makes a mockery of the legal system the Obama team is ostensibly defending. And in any event, it reveals that the administration realizes that the risk of release goes up when they are transferred to U.S. soil.

Second, the Richard Reid case demonstrates how little fortitude the administration has when it comes to limiting mail, visitors, and other means of spreading propaganda or assisting with plots outside the U.S. The restrictions that the government imposed on Reid were lifted after a legal challenge and a 58-day hunger strike by Reid. We can anticipate similar challenges by those who, once in the U.S., will seek judicial relief in lifting allegedly “inhumane” restrictions on them.

As to the supposed benefits that are derived from shuttering Guantanamo, I simply don’t buy that the location of the detention facility matters to anyone. The ACLU and leftists have already made clear in public statements and pleadings that they object to the indefinite detention. The terrorists themselves need no excuse to butcher Americans, and certainly didn’t when they devised the 9/11 plot. Moreover, given that the conditions under which they will be held in Illinois are far less cushy than those at Guantanamo — no gourmet menus or exercise bikes, no sunny yard to stroll in — the grievances are likely to increase. The argument will be made, with some justification, that we will be making the lives of detainees worse and their conditions less humane. And on this one, I will have to agree.

As with so much that the Obama team dream up with regard to the war on terror — trying KSM in civilian court, limiting enhanced interrogation, releasing interrogation memos, and now moving detainees to U.S. soil — the supposed gains depend on accepting the notion that we will get “credit” for tying our own hands and creating security risks for our own citizens. The president, if he were so concerned about our image, could — as he did privately with 9/11 families — talk publicly about how safe and, yes, just is the Guantanamo facility. It is the president’s job to dispel false and malicious propaganda, not to buy into it. Rebutting the unfair and false attacks on Guantanamo, rather than ushering in a Brave New World of dangerous and unpredictable litigation by terrorists, would seem to be a better use of the president’s time and energy.

Read Less

Not Keeping America Safe

Liz Cheney and Debra Burlingame (board members of Keep America Safe), Eileen Trotta (the sister of Officer Louis Pepe, a former federal prison guard who was stabbed in the eye by an al-Qaeda terrorist 10 months before 9/11), and former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy held a conference call to discuss the decision to move Guantanamo detainees to the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois. Cheney was blunt, declaring that this was further evidence that the Obama administration was “dedicated to turning the clock back” to a failed pre-9/11 approach, which treated terrorism as a criminal-justice matter. Once here, she explained, the detainees will have “all the rights of U.S. citizens” and the opportunity to seek release onto U.S. soil. They will also have the freedom to plan and plot other terrorist activities, as well as to “radicalize the prison population.” She noted that the Obama team has “no stomach” for keeping in place restrictions on terrorists once they’re in U.S. facilities, pointing to the case of shoe bomber Richard Reid, who after a hunger strike and legal complaint got the restrictions on mail, media access, etc. lifted. (Burlingame later added that it was discovered that the 1993 World Trade Center bombers managed to send some 90 letters to terrorist networks, which used them as prime recruiting tools.)

I asked Cheney what the administration hoped to gain by this, since terrorists would still have to be indefinitely detained and we were simply going to have to re-create the Guantanamo facility on U.S. soil. She confessed that it was “impossible to get inside their heads,” but she emphasized that each and every action of the president should be assessed as to whether it would make Americans safer. She said there is simply “no way to argue” that this makes us safer. She deemed the argument that this will create jobs “disgraceful,” reminding those on the call that there was an overpopulation problem in U.S. prisons and that other prisoners could be moved and the Illinois facility enhanced if they wanted to boost local jobs. She reiterated that Guantanamo is both a “safe and just facility” and that there is “no legitimate justification” for moving them.

In response to a similar query from USA Today as to whether this was an administration effort to eliminate Guantanamo as a “recruiting tool,” Cheney said that the media should “challenge them to show evidence” that it was Guantanamo that was responsible for terror recruitment. Terrorists “are not attacking America because of the way they are detained” but, she explained, because of their hateful Islamic fundamentalist ideology. McCarthy added, “A pretext is not a cause.” It is Islamic ideology and signs of American weakness that, he noted, are what spur recruitment, according to terrorists (including the 1993 bombers) who have been debriefed.

I asked McCarthy what Congress could do. Congress has “remedies,” he noted, including the power to decline funding. Congress is also the “master of federal jurisdiction” and can use that power, for example in the KSM trial, to declare U.S. courts off-limits to enemy combatants. It is, he argues, incumbent on Congress to use “the power of the purse … but also to say in resolutions that this is not the way we want to go.”

This is a preview of the debate that will take place, both in Congress and in the 2010 elections. The question remains: do we want to move terrorists to U.S. soil and treat them as U.S. citizens, with all the attendant rights and security risks? The American people overwhelmingly have rejected this idea. But the Obami say they know better. We’ll see who wins the argument.

Liz Cheney and Debra Burlingame (board members of Keep America Safe), Eileen Trotta (the sister of Officer Louis Pepe, a former federal prison guard who was stabbed in the eye by an al-Qaeda terrorist 10 months before 9/11), and former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy held a conference call to discuss the decision to move Guantanamo detainees to the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois. Cheney was blunt, declaring that this was further evidence that the Obama administration was “dedicated to turning the clock back” to a failed pre-9/11 approach, which treated terrorism as a criminal-justice matter. Once here, she explained, the detainees will have “all the rights of U.S. citizens” and the opportunity to seek release onto U.S. soil. They will also have the freedom to plan and plot other terrorist activities, as well as to “radicalize the prison population.” She noted that the Obama team has “no stomach” for keeping in place restrictions on terrorists once they’re in U.S. facilities, pointing to the case of shoe bomber Richard Reid, who after a hunger strike and legal complaint got the restrictions on mail, media access, etc. lifted. (Burlingame later added that it was discovered that the 1993 World Trade Center bombers managed to send some 90 letters to terrorist networks, which used them as prime recruiting tools.)

I asked Cheney what the administration hoped to gain by this, since terrorists would still have to be indefinitely detained and we were simply going to have to re-create the Guantanamo facility on U.S. soil. She confessed that it was “impossible to get inside their heads,” but she emphasized that each and every action of the president should be assessed as to whether it would make Americans safer. She said there is simply “no way to argue” that this makes us safer. She deemed the argument that this will create jobs “disgraceful,” reminding those on the call that there was an overpopulation problem in U.S. prisons and that other prisoners could be moved and the Illinois facility enhanced if they wanted to boost local jobs. She reiterated that Guantanamo is both a “safe and just facility” and that there is “no legitimate justification” for moving them.

In response to a similar query from USA Today as to whether this was an administration effort to eliminate Guantanamo as a “recruiting tool,” Cheney said that the media should “challenge them to show evidence” that it was Guantanamo that was responsible for terror recruitment. Terrorists “are not attacking America because of the way they are detained” but, she explained, because of their hateful Islamic fundamentalist ideology. McCarthy added, “A pretext is not a cause.” It is Islamic ideology and signs of American weakness that, he noted, are what spur recruitment, according to terrorists (including the 1993 bombers) who have been debriefed.

I asked McCarthy what Congress could do. Congress has “remedies,” he noted, including the power to decline funding. Congress is also the “master of federal jurisdiction” and can use that power, for example in the KSM trial, to declare U.S. courts off-limits to enemy combatants. It is, he argues, incumbent on Congress to use “the power of the purse … but also to say in resolutions that this is not the way we want to go.”

This is a preview of the debate that will take place, both in Congress and in the 2010 elections. The question remains: do we want to move terrorists to U.S. soil and treat them as U.S. citizens, with all the attendant rights and security risks? The American people overwhelmingly have rejected this idea. But the Obami say they know better. We’ll see who wins the argument.

Read Less




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