The case for keeping Guantanamo open: Thomas Joscelyn in The Weekly Standard
Posted by Liberty on November 24, 2008
Terrifying, to think that the Islamic terrorists incarcerated in Guantanamo could potentially be given lawyers and trials.
“The most dangerous men currently incarcerated at Guantánamo are the 14 ‘high value’ detainees. The Bush administration gave them this designation because they are uniquely lethal, having planned and participated in the most devastating terrorist attacks in history. Their collective dossier includes, among other attacks, 9/11, the American embassy bombings (August 7, 1998), the USS Cole bombing (October 12, 2000), and the Bali bombings (October 12, 2002). They are responsible for murdering thousands of civilians around the globe, from the eastern United States to Southeast Asia. Had they not been captured, they surely would have murdered thousands more.”
“It is not clear from the early press reports whether the Obama administration will continue preventive detention in any form. Some accounts suggest that the president-elect wants to abandon it entirely, rather than reforming it. During the campaign, Obama said he wanted to return to the way we did things in the 1990s, when terrorists were put on trial after the fact. ‘And, you know, let’s take the example of Guantánamo,’ Obama said. ‘What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks-for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center-we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated.’
This is not true. The chief bomb designer for the 1993 strike on the World Trade Center, Ramzi Yousef, was eventually detained years after the attack and was then convicted, and imprisoned. But the man who mixed the chemicals for the bomb, Abdul Rahman Yasin, is still at large, having fled to Saddam’s Iraq shortly after the bomb left a crater several stories deep in southern Manhattan. More important, Obama’s comment misses the fundamental lesson of 9/11. The successful prosecution of some of those responsible for the first World Trade Center bombing, as worthwhile as it was, did little to disrupt the broader terrorist network, which grew exponentially between 1993 and 2001. The best evidence of this is the fact that Ramzi Yousef’s uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (“KSM”), continued to operate unmolested long after his nephew was confined at a maximum security prison in Colorado.”
“KSM and Khan were not the only high value detainees to give up crucial, life-saving details during their interrogations. In March 2002, Abu Zubaydah was captured at his safe house in Faisalabad, Pakistan. In At the Center of the Storm, Tenet says that Zubaydah unwittingly gave up information that led to the capture of Ramzi Binalshibh on September 11, 2002. At the time, Binalshibh was plotting an attack on Heathrow Airport in London. At least several of the detainees at Guantánamo were captured along with Zubaydah at his safe house in 2002, and they too were involved in al Qaeda’s post-9/11 plotting. For example, Zubaydah intended to use one of them in an attack on Israel.
The greatest success of the Bush administration is that it stopped all of this, and more, from happening. The continental United States was under attack from an enemy unlike any other this nation has ever faced. There was no easy legal precedent or historical analogy. In the wake of 9/11, the Bush administration had to make up new rules as it went along. Critics are free to charge that the administration went too far. But the Obama administration may rapidly discover that treating the terrorist threat like any other matter in federal court, as candidate Obama proposed, is not only unrealistic but also dangerous.”