Obama plays hide the ter­ror­ist

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Pres­i­dent Obama is ex­tend­ing full con­sti­tu­tional due-process rights to a So­mali ter­ror­ist. This sets a trou­bling prece­dent. Ahmed Ab­dulka­dir Warsame was cap­tured some­time in April on a boat trav­el­ing be­tween Ye­men and So­ma­lia. He was de­tained on board a U.S. war­ship for two months and in­ter­ro­gated by in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials. He re­port­edly re­vealed a great deal of valu­able in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing his con­nec­tions to the So­ma­lia-based al-Shabab mil­i­tant group and the Ye­men-based al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula. So far, so good.

The world first heard of Mr. Warsame when he ap­peared on U.S. soil fac­ing a nine-count fed­eral in­dict­ment in the South­ern District of New York.

Af­ter his first se­ries of ship­board in­ter­ro­ga­tions, he was handed over to FBI agents who read him a Mi­randa warn­ing and com­menced a fresh round of ques- tion­ing, seek­ing to build a fed­eral crim­i­nal case.

There is no ev­i­dent com­pelling rea­son for Mr. Warsame to be given a civil trial. He is not a ma­jor ter­ror­ist leader, and he did not con­duct op­er­a­tions on U.S. soil or against U.S. cit­i­zens.

He is ac­cused of “pro­vid­ing sup­port” to al-Shabab and al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula, which could de­scribe any other mem­ber of those or­ga­ni­za­tions. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion seems to have taken this step only to es­tab­lish a prece­dent for more such tri­als.

The Warsame in­dict­ment is an end run around Congress, which last year voted to bar the trans­fer of ter­ror­ist de­tainees to the United States for trial or any other pur­pose.

The 2011 Na­tional De­fense Au­tho­riza­tion Act stip­u­lated that no Depart­ment of De­fense funds “may be used to trans­fer, re­lease, or as­sist in the trans­fer or re­lease to or within the United States, its ter­ri­to­ries, or pos­ses­sions” any de­tainee who “is not a United States cit­i­zen or a mem­ber of the Armed Forces of the United States” and was held at Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba. In his Jan. 7 sign­ing state­ment, Mr. Obama called the re­stric­tions “a dan­ger­ous and un­prece­dented chal­lenge to crit­i­cal ex­ec­u­tive branch au­thor­ity to de­ter­mine when and where to pros­e­cute Guan­tanamo de­tainees, based on the facts and the cir­cum­stances of each case and our na­tional se­cu­rity in­ter­ests” and main­tained that the “pros­e­cu­tion of ter­ror­ists in Fed­eral court is a pow­er­ful tool in our ef­forts to pro­tect the Nation and must be among the op­tions avail­able to us.” He pledged that his ad­min­is­tra­tion would “work with the Congress to seek re­peal of these re­stric­tions” and “seek to mit­i­gate their ef­fects.”

Be­cause Mr. Warsame was never held at Guan­tanamo, the law as writ­ten does not ap­ply to him.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion se­cretly trans­ferred the suspect to the United States with­out in­form­ing Congress, pre­sent­ing the leg­isla­tive branch with a fait ac­com­pli. This blind­sid­ing tac­tic demon­strates a lack of good faith in abid­ing by the spirit of the law.

It’s also a sig­nal to Congress of the need for more ex­pan­sive lan­guage to keep for­eign ter­ror­ists out of Amer­i­can courts.

The pend­ing De­tainee Se­cu­rity Act of 2011 would close the loop­hole by spec­i­fy­ing that “no in­di­vid­ual who is el­i­gi­ble for de­ten­tion pur­suant to the Au­tho­riza­tion for Use of Mil­i­tary Force may be trans­ferred or re­leased to or within the United States, its ter­ri­to­ries, or pos­ses­sions.”

Mr. Warsame’s may be the first such trial. It ought to be the last.

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