Last week, the Obama administration announced that it was prosecuting Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame for terrorism-related charges in the federal court in New York City. Warsame, who is perceived to have been a connector between al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Somalia's al Shabaab, was reportedly seized in April and held aboard a U.S. Navy ship for two months. National security experts welcomed the decision to bring Warsame to New York for federal prosecution, but it has sparked a surprising reaction from the right. Evoking controversial but unrelated state court decisions, and experience gained not in law enforcement but on television, some Congressional conservatives responded by calling for the use of military commissions, which have proven at best ineffective at prosecuting terrorists and at worst harmful to America's counterterrorism efforts. By contrast, the administration's comprehensive, effective approach to has drawn the support of key experts, editorial boards and public opinion.
Today, in a courtroom in New York Faisal Shahzad, the failed Times Square bomber, will enter pleas for 10 criminal charges, six of which face a life sentence. This is what successful counter-terrorism looks like: international cooperation helped produce the indictment; law enforcement and intelligence partnered to produce a court case and actionable intelligence from the suspect; alert citizens and the government together kept our people safe. As Assistant Attorney General David Kris said at a recent Brookings event, the criminal justice system "can disrupt terrorist plots through arrest... incapacitate terrorists through incarceration ... and ... can gather intelligence..."
The Obama administration took an important step towards closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay today by announcing that dozens of terrorism suspects currently being held there will be transferred to a prison in Thomson, Illinois. When retrofitted for greater security, the Thomson Correctional Center will have the same enhanced security attributes as facilities that already house terrorists on American soil. Local leaders, residents, prison guards - including former Guantanamo Bay prison guards – and their unions fully support the president’s decision and have expressed both their confidence in the prison system’s ability to hold the prisoners and their excitement about the jobs and federal money that will come with the transfer.