Well, we know that a Federal Court judge in Washington, D.C. granted the habeus corpus petition for Guantanamo Bay detainee and al-Qaeda recruiter Mohamedou Ould Salahi three weeks ago, on March 22. Now, we know why.
On Friday, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia released a redacted version of the decision by the Hon. James Robertson. In the ruling, Robertson stated that the U.S. government had failed to adequately prove that Salahi–captured in November 2001 and accused of involvement in the thwarted “Millennium” bombing on the West Coast and of recruiting several of the attackers who carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington–was sufficiently connected with al-Qaeda at the time he was nabbed so as to warrant being held at Gitmo, where he was once considered one of the highest value detainees.
According to Robertson, the legal question at hand when considering the situation of terrorist detainees is when that detainee was considered “part of al-Qaida.” In this case, while “[t]he evidence does show that he provided some support to al-Qaida, or to people he knew to be al-Qaida,” Robertson noted that “[s]uch support was sporadic … and, at the time of his capture, non-existent.”
Here’s the important part, as it relates to the ongoing prosecution of the newly-acronymed operation formely known as the Global War on Terror as a routine criminal exercise. According to Robertson, the government’s attempts to prove Salahi’s involvement through his own now-retracted admissions failed because it was “so tainted by coercion and mistreatment, or so classified, that it cannot support a successful criminal prosecution.”
“There is ample evidence in this record that Salahi was subjected to extensive and severe mistreatment at Guantanamo from mid-June 2003 to September 2003,” Robertson states in the decision. “Salahi’s position is that every incriminating statement he made while in custody must therefore be disregarded.”
Well, if you remember when the outcry over the criminal prosecution of terrorist detainees reached a fever pitch after Attorney General Eric Holder proposed that we rent Khalid Sheikh Mohammed an apartment in Lower Manhattan for a few years, other than the security issues and the cost involved with tempering them, the concern was two-fold: First, that any information gleaned through enhanced interrogation, through battlefield interrogation, or that somehow ran afoul of Miranda v. Arizona would be tossed out; and second, that classified information could be compromised due to the evidentiary needs of a criminal case.
Well, here we have a situation where information gleaned from enhanced interrogation techniques has been disregarded or otherwise rendered inadmissible. And while Salahi retracts his admissions and statements now as false and coerced, such statements and admissions were obviously verifiable and actionable enough for him to once be considered the highest-value detainee at the facility in Cuba. What we have here, thanks to the successful demonization of the military tribunal system by the left and thanks to this administration’s propensity toward treating terrorists like citizens and citizens like terrorists, is a situation where we’re relying upon the word of a national security threat rather than listening to those who work every day to keep us safe.
Furthermore, we have a situation in which the United States government was faced with a decision as to whether it should divulge classified information needed to garner a criminal conviction, or whether it should maintain that classified status for the sake of national security. The government obviously chose the latter, and for that reason was not able to convict. Aside from the fact that Salahi’s habeus petition was granted, the big problem here is that the government was forced into a decision which it should never have been forced to make. Never.
Judge Robertson, in the opinion, stated correctly that “the government wants to hold Salahi indefinitely, because of its concern that he might renew his oath to al-Qaida and become a terrorist upon his release.” He even admitted that the concern “may indeed be well-founded,” noting that “Salahi fought with al-Qaida in Afghanistan (twenty years ago), associated with at least a half-dozen known al-Qaida members and terrorists, and somehow found and lived among or with al-Qaida members in Montreal.” The issue here is the role of our court system, and whether or not the privilege of using it should be provided to terrorists. And the judge does a good job of summarizing that first part in the ruling.
“[A] habeas court may not permit a man to be held indefinitely upon suspicion,” the judge wrote, “or because of the government’s prediction that he may do unlawful acts in the future — any more than a habeas court may rely upon its prediction that a man will not be dangerous in the future and order his release if he was lawfully detained in the first place.”
He’s right. And that’s why radical Islamic terrorists captured abroad or even on American soil in the act of planning, facilitating or carrying out attacks against Americans should not be treated as common criminals. This administration can play semantics as much as it likes — it does not change the fact that these people are at war with us, regardless of whether our leaders feel as though we’re at war with them.
Until our leaders realize that very simple truth, the United States of America will be less safe. Innocent men, women and children will die, and our fighting men and women abroad will continue to put themselves in harm’s way for an American leadership that is less than wholly committed to the cause of fighting Islamic jihad across the globe.
For a copy of the redacted ruling, click HERE.