Today the Senate is expected to pass an amendment banning the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the United States, even U.S. prisons. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) explained yesterday, “Can’t put them in prison unless you release them.”
This morning on CNN, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), author of the amendment, declared that moving detainees to maximum-security prisons or military bases would make those facilities “magnets to terrorism.” He claimed that the U.S. is “not set up to handle terrorist detainees”:
CHETRY: You don’t think that those facilities could keep some of these detainees secure, at the same time, protecting the surrounding communities?
INHOFE: No, I don’t, Kiran. [...]
CHETRY: There has been, though, here in the United States a number of people who have been convicted on terrorism-related charges in U.S. courts. … They’ve been held in our U.S. prisons. Why can’t that be replicated with the Guantanamo Bay detainees?
INHOFE: Because those individuals who are actually criminals, they actually committed crimes and were not involved in the type of — in the type of terrorist activity as we’ve been experiencing in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In truth, the United States is more than equipped to handle a few dozen terrorist suspects. Indeed, dozens of dangerous terrorists are already held in American prisons. Inhofe tries to distinguish between those “criminals” and today’s terror detainees, but everyone knows that Timothy McVeigh, the Blind Sheikh, and Zacarias Moussaoui are terrorists. They know that because these men were convicted in U.S. courts and either executed or sentenced to life in prison at the Colorado Supermax.
Supermax isn’t the only place for terrorists or terrorist suspects. The high-security wing of the naval brig in Charleston, SC, confined Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri for more than five years; the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer notes that, “[u]nlike the staff at Abu Ghraib, the brig staff had been trained for the job. Their mission, as they saw it, was to run a safe, professional, and humane prison, regardless of who was held there.”
As the Center for American Progress’ Ken Gude told ThinkProgress, the U.S. has a long tradition of incarcerating terrorists:
The truth is that we have prosecuted and incarcerated some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists in the United States for decades, and doing so has made America safer. Beginning in the Reagan administration, the United States has captured more than a dozen terrorists overseas and brought them to justice in America. These terrorists are guilty of murdering dozens of Americans and more than 500 people worldwide, and include 1993 World Trade Center bombing mastermind Ramzi Yousef, Khalfan Khamis Mohamed of the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings, and Aafia Siddiqui who was captured in Afghanistan in 2008 and is awaiting trial in New York for the attempted murder of U.S. soldiers.
“Thousands of Americans work hard every day in maximum security prisons to keep these and other dangerous convicts safely locked away,” Gude said. Why do conservatives have such little faith in American security officials?
Read the Center for American Progress’ report on how to safely close the Guantanamo prison here.
While discussing the incarceration of detainees in U.S. prisons, it is worth emphasizing that at least 60 of the 244 detainees still confined in Guantanamo either face no criminal charges or have been cleared for release.