The National Security Network welcomes the sentencing of Ahmed Ghailani, the former Guantanamo Bay camp detainee who was tried in the civilian court system and sentenced to life in prison without parole today for his role in the 1998 bombings of two United States Embassies in East Africa.
Last night, Attorney General Eric Holder defended the use of civilian trials as an effective tool in combating terrorism, saying that a proposal to eliminate them "would seriously harm our national security." This echoed his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week. Holder is supported by a broad consensus among national security experts from across the political spectrum that civilian trials are in fact a valuable and effective tool in combating terrorism. Yet, despite this consensus from experts, conservative critics continue to disregard their utility and seek to eliminate the option of civilian trials, using fear mongering tactics to politicize national security. Maintaining the option for civilian trials and bringing terrorists to justice is an essential part of a broader counterterrorism framework that has proven effective, and eliminating this tool comes at the expense of America's national security.
For months, conservatives have looked desperately for a reality-based argument against bringing terrorists to justice using America's federal courts. First they said our criminal justice system was unsafe. When that failed, they moved to arguing that a trial in a federal court would be a propaganda tool for terrorists. Now, Liz Cheney and Keep America Safe have resorted to peddling ‘urban myths' that federal courts cannot protect America's intelligence secrets. The reality is that federal courts are one of the most effective instruments in America's counterterrorism arsenal, offering protection for intelligence secrets, leverage to yield actionable intelligence, a superb conviction rate, tough sentences, and a platform for condemning extremism before the entire world.
The FBI-led interrogation of the failed Christmas Day underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has produced important results - including the arrest of ten terror suspects. The policies the Obama administration has followed in his and other cases - interrogation guidelines, the reading of Miranda rights and the use of civilian courts - date from the Bush Administration and are supported by non-partisan national security experts, who feel that military trials and sensationalism only give terror suspects the notoriety they seek. But none of this is evident from the public debate, where conservatives have taken politicization of national security and terrorism to dangerous new heights.