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The Kentucky Crying Turtle, Mitch McConnell">

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.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips? Flames? (17+ / 0-)

    A little respect for the rule of law and our Article III courts that have served us so well in the past?

    Getting Democrats together and keeping them that way is like herding cats that are high on meth, through L.A., during an earthquake, in the rain -6.25, -6.10

    by Something the Dog Said on Wed Jun 15, 2011 at 06:34:43 AM PDT

  •  The Senator from Kentucky misses an (12+ / 0-)

    essential point.

    Once these men are arrested in the United States they are fully subject to the laws of the United States, and I am not aware of any legal provision for transferring a civilian in custody in Kentucky (or any other state) to military custody and transporting them outside the United States.

    And I'll bet that the SCOTUS will rule 9-0 (well, 8-1. Thomas is an idiot sometimes) that the Constitution doesn't allow you to transfer someone from a place where they have legal rights to some other place just to strip away those rights.

    This is the GOP doubling down on the stupid, once again. Not just that Guantanamo was useful for people captured on the field of battle in Afghanistan or Iraq, but that terrorists are so dangerous that they can ONLY be safely held in Gitmo.

    No, they aren't. We don't need to trample on our Constitution some more because Republican cowards are cowardly. We are quite capable of handling a couple of AQ wannabes in American jails, Mitch.

    Great graphic, BTW.


    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Wed Jun 15, 2011 at 06:42:20 AM PDT

  •  I Try Not To Pick Fights Here (3+ / 0-)

    So I don't often say I agree with Glenn Greenwald 24/7. I agree with him 24/7. You take these folks to court like you take anybody to court in the US. It is that simple.

    When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

    by webranding on Wed Jun 15, 2011 at 06:49:08 AM PDT

  •  The Constituion only applies when the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Something the Dog Said

    Republicans say it does.

    "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

    by eXtina on Wed Jun 15, 2011 at 06:49:21 AM PDT

  •  oy (2+ / 0-)

    Im kind of on a summer hiatus, but damn, StDS, you got my attention. Beyond the obvious, Im afraid of some of the implications of all this for others...

    The men are among 56,000 Iraqis who took advantage of special programs to come to the United States after demonstrating they were in danger from Iraqi militias for their religious beliefs or because they were translators for U.S. government or media organizations.  

    {snip}

    Also, as new records go into the terrorist watch list, he said, refugees already in the U.S. are being vetted again.

    "Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does all the work." ~Mark Twain

    by Lady Libertine on Wed Jun 15, 2011 at 07:23:14 AM PDT

    •  Yeah, it is not a good thing. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lady Libertine, Actbriniel

      It is so Bush administration, for years they did not allow any Iraqis into the country, then when the political cost of that got to high they just let the doors swing wide without the proper planning.

      Getting Democrats together and keeping them that way is like herding cats that are high on meth, through L.A., during an earthquake, in the rain -6.25, -6.10

      by Something the Dog Said on Wed Jun 15, 2011 at 07:34:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Let's start with the guy (0+ / 0-)

    who stomped the lefty protester.

  •  Aha! An opportunity! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    afisher, greatferm

    I have a modest proposal - the next bunch of people caught trying to bomb a clinic  should be transferred  to Guantanomo, and the Administration will have political cover  for doing so because no less august figure than Senator  McConnell said that American citizens suspected of terrorism should be tried at Gitmo. And because of another law that the same senator supported, we couldn't bring them back to the USA even if  we wanted to because all funding to transfer Gitmo captives to the US for trial have been cut off. And they would have to be tried by a military tribunal, because, hey, didn't McConnell say that was the appropriate venue? Those military  tribunals have a limited appetite for speechifying and grandstanding,  so the clinic terrorists wouldn't even get the publicity they want. Sounds like a win all around to me, and if  the Obama administration does it, they can proudly show that it is bipartisan, which is all that  really matters, isn't it? Quadripartisan, really - 50 Democrats, 2 Independents, 47 Republicans, and a Box Turtle.

    I should drink rum at breakfast more often, it helps my ideas flow...

    •  Did you write McConnell? (0+ / 0-)

       Once we get through all the logical and rational argument and debate points, we need to have some levity / snark and that you provided, thanks!

        Remember:  it's always 5 o'clock somewhere.

      •  5 AM or 5 PM? (0+ / 0-)

        Or does it matter? I figure Myers rum and coffee are the same color, so it's OK.

        On a more serious note about unserious writing, in medieval courts it was the jester's job to speak truth and point out when the monarch was doing something ridiculous. We need more wise jesters out there, because snark is a powerful weapon. An iron fist wrapped in a velvet rubber  chicken, so to speak.

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