Today, Guantanamo detainee Ahmed Ghailani was transferred to New York to face trial for the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. Discussing his case last month, President Obama said that, “after over a decade, it is time to finally see that justice is served, and that is what we intend to do.” Attorney General Eric Holder has noted that the Justice Department “has a long history of securely detaining and successfully prosecuting terror suspects through the criminal justice system.”
The right wing, however, has seized the opportunity to launch baseless, fearmongering attacks, with House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) leading the way:
This is the first step in the Democrats’ plan to import terrorists into America. Without a plan to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, the Administration has made the decision to begin transferring these terrorists into the United States…Do they plan to give them the same legal rights as the American people?
Similarly, on MSNBC today, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) said that the transfer was “counterintuitive” because there are “no judicial precedents for the conviction of someone like this”:
CANTOR: Well, you know, Norah, it’s just counterintuitive. Why in the world would somebody be so focused on the rights of a terrorist instead of keeping Americans safe? There are so many unanswered questions about bringing these detainees on to U.S. soil. We have no judicial precedents for the conviction of someone like this. It is just wrong for us to be bringing these detainees here given the current situation and the unanswered questions. We ought to be putting the safety of American citizens first.
However, the Justice Department today put out a lengthy fact sheet listing nine of major international and domestic terrorism cases that just the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York alone has successfully prosecuted since the 1990s. The release also responded to right-wing criticisms that U.S. prisons can’t handle terrorists:
There are currently 216 inmates in Bureau of Prisons (BOP) custody who have a history of/or nexus to international terrorism. Sixty seven of these individuals were extradited to the United States for prosecution, while 149 were not extradited. Seventy two of these individuals are U.S. citizens (45 of them born in the United States, 27 of them naturalized). The “Supermax” facility in Florence, Colo. (ADX Florence), which is BOP’s most secure facility, houses 33 of these international terrorists. There has never been an escape from ADX Florence, and BOP has housed some of these international terrorists since the early 1990s.
In fact, NBC’s Pete Williams said that Ghailani’s transfer “makes sense, because other defendants in the embassy bombings were tried and convicted” in New York.