Tuesday, June 9, 2009
First Guantanamo Detainee Transferred to U.S.
In a move that is upsetting Republican leaders, a top al Qaeda detainee was flown from Guantanamo Bay to New York earlier today to face terror charges. Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was transfered from U.S. military to civilian custody by order of the Justice Department to stand trial for his role in the 1998 American embassy bombings in East Africa. Ghailani is the first Guantanamo detainee to be transferred to an American court under the Obama Administration. President Obama has promised to close the Guantanamo prison by January 2010. Many people, especially Obama's Republican adversaries such as House Minority Leader John Boehner, are wondering if bringing terrorists to American soil is the right thing to do. "This is the first step in the Democrats' plan to import terrorists into America," Boehner said. "There are more than 200 of the world's most dangerous men held at the Guantanamo Bay prison," Boehner continued. "Does the Administration plan to transfer all of them into our nation in this way? Do they plan to give them the same legal rights as the American people? Just what is the Administration's plan for closing this prison?" Another high-profile Republican, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, weighed in on the subject: "Our priority must be to keep America safe, and it defies logic to put the rights of some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world before the safety of Americans by bringing them onto American soil," he said in a statement. "Terrorists spend years trying to sneak inside our borders, and bringing them here ourselves is utterly counter-intuitive." The government is quick to point out that there are 216 inmates in custody in America with ties to international terrorism, and there are 139 individuals custody connected to domestic terrorism. Domestic terrorists, including Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski and Okalahoma City bombing accomplice Terry Nichols, are safely hidden away in the Supermax detention facility in Colorado, and they're joined by international terrorists Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman and Ramzi Yousef, both convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, as well as by shoe bomber Richard Reid, and Ahmed Ressam, the Millennium Bomber, who plotted to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on New Year's Eve, 1999. While most of these prisoners will never see the light of day, Ressam was given a relatively light sentence. By cooperating with authorities by giving them information about terror camps in Afghanistan, Ressam was sentenced in 2005 to 22 years. The judge in the case, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour, said he hoped to send a message that the U.S. court system works in terrorism cases. "We did not need to use a secret military tribunal, detain the defendant indefinitely or deny the defendant the right to counsel," he said. "Our courts have not abandoned the commitment to the the ideals that set this nation apart." With credit for time served and reductions for good behavior, Ressam could be out of jail by 2016. He most likely will be deported, his attorney said at the time, but he didn't exactly specify where. This is the type of case that is problematic for Republicans, causing them to hyperventilate unnecessarily. Some of the prisoners will be getting out. So what? They won't be allowed to loiter in my neighborhood. We have a system in place to deal with their deportation, although rendition for the purpose of torture is no longer allowed. At least that's what the government wants us to think.