Under heavy guard, a Guantanamo Bay detainee walked into a civilian U.S. courtroom for the first time Tuesday, underscoring the Obama administration's determination to close the Cuban prison and hold trials here despite Republican
alarms about bringing terror suspects to America.
Ahmed Ghailani, a Tanzanian accused in two American Embassy bombings a decade ago, pleaded not guilty -- in English -- in a brief but historic federal court hearing that transported him from open-ended military detention to the civilian criminal justice system.
This event is one small event in part of a much larger philosophical debate on the future of the GWOT. Whether it's GITMO, enhanced interrogations, rendition, the terrorist surveillance program, there is a larger debate. Do we treat terrorists like enemies in a war or like criminals?
If we are to view terrorists as criminals then it perfectly appropriate to reject GITMO and most other anti terror measures. If, on the other hand, we view as terrorists as enemies in a war, then most of our anti terror measures are perfectly appropriate.
Now, it's important to understand that President Obama has a very nuanced view of terrorists. Whether terrorists are enemies in war or criminals largely depends on where the terrorists are located. For instance, if terrorists are located in either Pakistan or Afghanistan, President Obama treats those terrorists like enemies in war. President Obama has no problem sending drones to drop bombs on suspected terrorist hideouts in the villages of Pakistan. At Bagram, terrorists are detained and often held without charge and without any due process.
At GITMO, for the most part, he wants to treat those folks like criminals. It's why he suspended all enhanced interrogations. That's why he brought this individual into our federal criminal court system. He will now have the exact same rights as someone that commits inter state mail fraud. On the other hand, he also wants to hold other GITMO detainees incommunicado with no charges or trials. For President Obama, whether a terrorist is a criminal or an enemy in war, largely depends on time and place.
To me, they all need to be classified in the same way. These are folks that represent no country. They wear no uniform. Finally, they target civilians. When they plot to destroy a building or hijack an airliner, they are not only committing and act of war but an ILLEGAL act of war. This not only makes them enemy combatants but illegal enemy combatants. They do NOT deserve any Constitutional protections. The Nazis got no constitutional protections and their acts of war weren't illegal.
Illegal enemy combatants deserve the smallest of rights. Putting these folks through our criminal court system makes them criminals. There is a massive difference between someone that defrauded investors in many states, and someone that is plotting to blow up a big building. To give both the same rights and criminal denomination is to totally misinterpret how to deal with the two.