There are a lot of problems without the United States military tribunal system. Not the least of which is that we have set a separate track for some prosecutions when it comes to terrorism and terrorism related crimes. This leads to a confusion of effort but also risks the expansion of our gulag in Cuba.
Take the example of two men who were arrested in Kentucky. Waad Alwan and Mohanad Hammadi, two Iraqi men arrested in May on charges of trying to send Stinger missiles and other weapons to Al Qaeda related insurgents in Iraq. Both men were part of the refugee program that has allowed 56,000 Iraqi’s into the United States.
Mr. Alwan was, apparently, an insurgent himself who came to the U.S. with the intention of getting out of Iraq, where he was wanted, and gaining a U.S. passport which would allow him a much greater freedom of travel world wide.
He had been under investigation by the FBI since sometime in 2009. The details are sketchy but he had been working with an FBI informant who gave him weapons to ship to Iraq with the express intent of attacking Americans there.
All of this is pretty standard for anti-terror cases but it is when we get people like Sen. Mitch “Box-Turtle” McConnell involved that we see the perils of our “two track” justice system in regards to terrorism. The Senate Minority Leader is loudly saying that he wants the two men transferred from Federal custody to Guantanamo Bay.
Here is part of what he said, from the Courier-Journal article:
In a Senate floor speech, McConnell said he wanted to “get these men out of Kentucky.”
“Send them to Guantanamo where they belong,” the Kentucky Republican said. “Get these terrorists out of the civilian (court) system — and out of our backyards. And give them the justice they deserve.”
There are a lot of problems that that single sentence. First off it is hard to understand how a court system that is designed to let evidence that would never see the light of day in Article III courts be admissible is going to be any kind justice.
Second, these men have not been convicted of anything, merely accused. It is to be assumed that the FBI has the goods on these guys (the FBI has a record of enticing people into these kinds of acts, and they mostly keep it together to get the evidence for convictions) but as of yet they are not convicted so sending them to a extra-legal prison in Cuba is problem for anyone that thinks the process of the law should be followed.
Third, Federal lock up is hardly peoples back yards. Sen. McConnell makes it sound like they are loafing around neighborhoods with ankle tracking bracelets instead of being under strict lock and key.
When he is not fear mongering the Senior Senator from Kentucky gives another spurious reason for wanting these men in military custody. He said in the same speech:
“I think it's safe to say that a lot of Kentuckians, including me, would like to know why two men who either killed or plotted to kill U.S. soldiers and Marines in Iraq aren't sitting in a jail cell in Guantanamo right now. When it comes to enemy combatants, our top priority — as I have said repeatedly — should be to capture, detain and interrogate. That wasn't done here.
Interrogate is the key word here. You see Sen. Mitch wants to be sure that we don’t wind down our brutal and very probably criminal interrogation programs. Sure, the Obama Administration has drawn a line against torture of new prisoners, but that line leaves a lot of lee way and there is nothing Republicans want more than to have a revival of our torture program under the euphemism of “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”.
By pushing the sending of accused terrorists to Guantanamo Bay, they put a veneer of legitimacy on the whole sordid affair in Cuba. This is, of course, based on the discredited idea that harsh interrogation is more effective than the scientific and proven methods of gaining trust over time.
The fact of the matter is that both of the suspects were questioned extensively by the FBI, both waived their Miranda rights and there was coordination with the intelligence agencies as well. This is how it is supposed to work. We arrest someone, we question them and then we charge and try them. There has never been a need to use harsh techniques or systems designed to subvert US laws to gather intelligence or prosecute those who want to commit violent acts against the United States or its troops.
It also ignores the fact that the Federal justice system, through the Article III courts has been incredibly affective at finding, trying and convicting accused terrorists. Where as the military tribunals have not been affective at all up to this point.
Before and since 9/11 every single terror suspect has been arrested inside the U.S. by civil authorities, instead of the military. With the exception of Jose Padilla and maybe one or two others, they have remained in civil custody until their trials and convictions (that there has never been an acquittal is another problem for another day). There has never been a retaliatory strike against any court or judge involved in these cases.
Most importantly, these trials are well within the boundaries of accepted law. The life sentence that most of the active terror suspects are sentenced to is basically air tight. There is no room for revue or reversal as there almost certainly will be in any military commission conviction.
The hysteria around the idea of trying terror suspects in the United States has always been manufactured. There is no reason why a case where people actually committed crimes, which terrorism is at its base, can’t be tried in our normal court system. It is only the Republican insistence on making terrorism some kind of bogey-man and using it to sharply curtail our civil liberties that has kept this meme alive.
Rest assured that we will be hearing more of this kind of bleating form Sen. McConnell and other Republicans. Like 99% of everything they say it will be bullshit, it will not serve to make our nation stronger or safer, but that won’t prevent them from getting on the floor of the House or Senate and saying it anyway.
Nobody likes terrorist fuck-wits. Nobody. However, just because there are terrorist fuck-wits in the world is not reason enough (as if there ever is reason enough) to subvert and weaken our legal system by making a separate class for them. The law is a fabric and you can not pull one thread without making the whole thing less stable. That is exactly what we are doing any time we expand the use of Guantanamo Bay and the military tribunals established there.
The floor is yours.