Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, penned this column today:
OBAMA ADMINISTRATION MUST REVERSE STANCE ON TERRORIST TRIALS; GITMO
If the violence and tragedy of the 9/11 attacks was a wake-up call about the reality of global terrorism, the foiled attempt on Flight 253 in Detroit on Christmas Day was a sobering reminder that we continue to face that threat today.
Nearly one year ago this month, President Obama declared his intent to suspend military commissions for suspected terrorists, to assess the feasibility of trying detainees in the U.S. federal court system, and to close Guantanamo Bay. These decisions do not reflect how the strongest nation in the world should bring justice to foreigners who seek to make war and terror on us and our allies. As the President charts his Administration’s course for the upcoming year, I hope he will reverse his decisions.
First, I am fundamentally opposed to treating suspected foreign terrorists as mere criminals and not enemy combatants. Last November, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced his intention to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-conspirators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in federal court in Manhattan, New York, instead of before military commissions. More recently, the decision was made to prosecute Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the infamous Christmas Day bomber, before a federal court in Detroit. This is unacceptable.
Foreign nationals that plan or execute acts of terror against the U.S. should be treated as enemies whether they plan or commit those acts on foreign soil or on our own. These individuals are not Americans, and should not be granted the same legal rights and protections that our federal court system affords to American citizens. As self-proclaimed “warriors” against the U.S., they should be treated as such. Providing terror suspects with legal privileges, such as reading them the Miranda rights, undermines the severity of their actions and impairs our ability to gain valuable intelligence from them.
Some would argue that there is a precedent for granting full legal rights to terrorists such as those who attacked the World Trade Center in 1993. However, knowing what we know now about the nature of these terrorists’ desire and capability to do us harm, we must view them as combatants and their attacks as acts of war.
Second, citizens of foreign nations who plan or attempt terrorist attacks against the U.S. should not be tried in the federal court system. Instead, they should be prosecuted before military commissions. Under current law, military commissions have jurisdiction in trying any offense against the laws of war and specifically any transgressions associated with hostilities before, on, or after September 11, 2001. Commissions allow suspects due process and prevent certain procedural tactics found in federal courts that could allow the acquittal of suspected terrorists on technicalities.
Most alarmingly, prosecuting these individuals in federal courts presents significant risks to the protection of classified information and intelligence practices. As a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I know firsthand that our national security requires the protection of sensitive information. My concern is that by using public trials, there is significant potential for critical intelligence to be seen by both terror suspects and their private attorneys. Military commissions will protect privileged information, and keep al-Qaeda and others who seek to do us harm from using it to change their tactics and launch future attacks.
Furthermore, a public trial in the U.S. also puts significant strain on local law enforcement, local governments, the federal court system, and their budgets. If Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other 9/11 co-conspirators are tried in New York City, it is estimated to cost approximately $200 million annually according to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
For these reasons, I also believe the plan to close Guantanamo Bay is misguided. I have personally toured Gitmo and believe it is a vital asset to our security. It provides a secure environment away from American soil in which to detain and prosecute these dangerous individuals. It is entirely guarded by highly-trained military personnel, which prevents detainees from escaping and greatly deters intruders from gaining access. Holding and trying suspected terrorists at Gitmo also addresses the security risks and increased costs that are associated with transferring them to the U.S. for trial. In short, conducting military commissions at Guantanamo Bay achieves justice while protecting the American people from unnecessary risk.
Let there be no doubt, this Administration must continue to pursue the Global War on Terror. As the President’s deadline for closing Guantanamo Bay passes by this month, I sincerely hope he will reconsider these decisions entirely. The steps we have taken as a nation since 9/11 have been instrumental to combating global terrorism, and we cannot afford to turn back those efforts.