Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) issued a statement that virtually accused the administration of trying to circumvent the will of congress which “has spoken clearly multiple times — including explicitly in pending legislation — of the perils of bringing terrorists onto U.S. soil.” McKeon is referring to legislation passed by the House that prohibits the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo to the US.
McKeon also pointed to the surreptitious manner in which Warsame was brought into the country: “It is unacceptable that the administration notified Congress only after it unilaterally transferred this detainee to New York City,” he said in a statement. The Washington Post reports that the president wanted to avoid a fight over Warsame’s status with congress, pointing out that by flying Warsame to New York before announcing his capture, “the administration circumvented likely congressional objections to his transfer here.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) lambasted the president for bringing Warsame to New York and giving him the same rights as an American citizen despite the fact that he is a foreign national. “The administration has purposefully imported a terrorist into the U.S. and is providing him all the rights of U.S. citizens in court,” McConnell said. “This ideological rigidity being displayed by the administration is harming the national security of the United States of America.”
Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, also questioned granting a terrorist constitutional rights, saying “He is not an American citizen, nor did his criminal acts or his detention occur in the U.S. He is a Somali who traveled to Yemen for terror training. Warsame is a foreigner and an unlawful enemy combatant.”
Nor did the putative friends of the president agree with his new policy. John Sifton, a human rights attorney who has represented detainees, pointed out the obvious; that the administration was “conflicted” in its policy. He added, that the new policy still “detains persons indefinitely, without access to counsel, using questionable Bush-era interpretations of the laws of war.” Sifton did praise the administration for its efforts to use civilian courts to try terrorism suspects.
White House spokesman Jay Carney responded to the criticisms by employing a very selective memory: “Wherever possible, first priority is and always has been to apprehend terrorist suspects and preserve the opportunity to elicit valuable intelligence that can help protect the American people.”
Mr. Carney obviously has forgotten about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the “Underwear Bomber” who tried to blow up a plane landing in Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009. After he was apprehended, he was interrogated only a few hours before being read his Miranda rights. This led to heavy criticism of Attorney General Eric Holder for halting the interrogation long before significant intelligence could have been acquired.
The debate over what to do with captured terrorists will continue no matter what happens to Warsame in federal court. It is extremely unlikely that even if he is acquitted he will ever taste freedom again. The same holds true for virtually all the remaining detainees at Guantanamo. Why try them in civilian courts if the results are pre-ordained? Will it really lead to the rest of the world thinking better of us for the effort?
Former Bush-era Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey wrote in a Wall Street Journal editorial from October of 2009:
[C]ritics of Guantanamo seem to believe that if we put our vaunted civilian justice system on display in these cases, then we will reap benefits in the coin of world opinion, and perhaps even in that part of the world that wishes us ill. Of course, we did just that after the first World Trade Center bombing, after the plot to blow up airliners over the Pacific, and after the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
In return, we got the 9/11 attacks and the murder of nearly 3,000 innocents.
That is a heavy price to pay for trying to get the rest of the world to like us.
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