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Holding Terrorists Accountable Isn't Enough

Sunday, 14 June 2009 05:39 PM Current | Bio | Archive

The Obama administration quietly transferred Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to New York City, where he will face criminal charges for embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya. Ghailani is responsible for the deaths of 224 people in those attacks, and is also charged in connection with his ties to al-Qaida.

He already admitted to his role in the bombings, the murders, and to his al-Qaida training in an efficient military tribunal. He’s inarguably a despicable and dangerous terrorist whose unambiguous guilt will surely earn him life behind bars or possibly even a death sentence.

And for Obama, the seedier the better. Ghailani is the perfect first choice in his administration’s doe-eyed crusade to soften the edges of our image abroad. Obama wants to assure a guilty verdict, so he chose someone who’s already confessed. His criminal trial will likely be short and uncontroversial, and for proponents of closing Gitmo it will be proof positive that trying terrorists as war criminals is unnecessary and ineffective.

Except, of course, that it isn’t.

Forget the philosophical arguments against trying terrorists as average criminals, even though many are responsible for the deaths of hundreds, some the deaths of thousands, and most would be more than happy to carry out new orders against the States and her allies.

And forget the dangers inherent in Mirandizing detainees, which of course places an added burden on our soldiers in the battlefield and on our investigators at home.

Forget about the outrage of driving by the local Supermax knowing someone who killed hundreds of Americans – and maybe your own son or daughter – and would probably relish the opportunity to do it again, is living next door to your church or your post office or your day care center.

And never mind that these criminal trials could make public valuable counter-intelligence. As Andy McCarthy pointed out in National Review, most worrisome is “the generous due process rules which force us to disclose skads [sic] of intelligence to terrorists — and expose our sources to testify against terrorists — even as their network is still at large and still committed to killing us.”

All of that is unsettling at best, and horrifying at worst. But what really matters is the future security of the country and our allies. Putting someone like Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, or any other al-Qaida loyalist for that matter, in a United States prison is like handing them a cell phone with Osama bin Laden’s telephone number pre-programmed in it.

This is not a criticism against our prison system or our well-trained and hard-working prison guards. Their hands are tied by increasing efforts from human rights and civil liberties groups to relax and improve the conditions for our worst offenders.

But the privileges that the Ghailanis of the terrorism world could be afforded in prison will make them a continued threat to the country. Human Rights Watch, in an effort to condemn what it described as the overly harsh treatment of detainees in Gitmo, compared the lavish conditions of an average Supermax to those of Guantanamo Bay, calling the contrast “stark.”

“Prisoners at the California SHU were able to leave their pods to go to a law library, where they were able to read in individual library cells. They were also allowed to buy radios and televisions for their cells, and could request counseling, prayer, or Bible study visits. Two-thirds were double-celled, and they were allowed visits from family members.”

At ADX-Florence, the Supermax that houses Zacarias Moussaoui, Richard Reid and Ramzi Yousef, even so-called “special administrative measures” don’t offer the kinds of assurances Americans want in preparing to distribute terrorists around the country. “Even they…are provided televisions in their cell, which offer limited outside programming (including The Discovery Channel), as well as educational and religious materials that are broadcast over in-house TV channels.” Every inmate, regardless of their crime, is allowed monthly phone calls and visitors.

The idea that a Supermax facility will make it impossible for an eager terrorist to communicate with al-Qaida is preposterous. In the notoriously strict Israeli prison system, for example, Hamas has basically set up a command post. Masab Yousef, the son of West Bank Hamas leader Sheik Hassan Yousef, found himself in an Israeli jail at age 18.

“Hamas had control of its members inside the jail,” he told Fox News’s Jonathan Hunt. According to Yousef, who has since converted from Islam to Christianity and now goes by Joseph, Hamas prisoners are incredibly organized. They find ways to communicate with outside leadership, and maintain by way of torture and killing order of their ranks inside the prison to ensure against Israeli cooperation or informants.

Attorney General Eric Holder declared Ghailani’s appearance in federal court evidence that he is being held accountable for murdering 224 people. Holding terrorists accountable is important, but it’s only half of the issue. How can we be sure our prisons will physically hold them, and assure the rest of the country and our allies that we’re not making it easier for terrorists to carry out their frightening plots against the West?

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The Obama administration quietly transferred Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to New York City, where he will face criminal charges for embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya. Ghailani is responsible for the deaths of 224 people in those attacks, and is...
Sunday, 14 June 2009 05:39 PM
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