Clive Crook is usually a lot smarter than this:
The Democratic party’s civil libertarians seem to believe that several medium-sized US cities would be a reasonable price to pay for insisting on ordinary criminal trials for terrorist suspects.
This is really dumb. In the near term, there is no risk that “several medium-sized US cities” will be destroyed by terrorists. In the long term, decades and such, the likelihood of a US city being destroyed in a terrorist attack does not depend in any substantial degree on whether or not the particular people currently in custody at Guantanamo and elsewhere in the US’s preventive detention system are released. The risk is that some percentage of same — about 10%, if we actually believe the US Defense Department, and I see no reason to — will “return to the battlefield”. “The battlefield” here is Iraq and Af-Pak.
But here’s my main question: what exactly is so hard about getting terrorists convicted in American courts? Under US law, even “providing material aid” to any “terrorist organization” is a felony. I mean, come on — the US can try university professors for “material aid” to a “terrorist” organization for recruiting donations to a Palestinian political and charity group that was not, at the time, considered a terrorist organization. How hard is it, really, to convict someone picked up “on the battlefield” in Afghanistan of having “provided material support” to the Taliban? This is US Code Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113B:
§ 2339B. Providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations
(1) Unlawful conduct.— Whoever knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both, and, if the death of any person results, shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.
Now, I think this law is overbroad. (Here’s Georgetown constitutional law professor David Cole detailing the reasons he thinks it’s unconstitutional. Cole: “President Clinton used IEEPA to label a U.S. citizen a ‘specially designated terrorist’ without hearing, notice, or trial, and then to subject him to a kind of internal banishment, in which it is a crime for anyone else in the United States to provide him with anything of value.” And so on.)
But it’s on the books. And are you seriously telling me that the Bush Administration’s torture regime has so thoroughly bolloxed the entirety of the evidence regarding detainees at Gitmo that we can no longer even prove they were doing anything to support any group on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations? Any such group whose actions have resulted in “the death of any person”? If we can’t prove that about these guys, what are they doing in prison?
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