Better have something to bite on before you start reading the intrepid Debra Burlingame’s Wall Street Journal op-ed this morning — your teeth are going to be gnashing big-time.
Unbelievably, the Obama Justice Department has withdrawn the “special administrative measures” (SAMs) imposed at the federal supermax prison in Colorado against “Shoe Bomber” Richard Reid (the jihadist who tried to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight with nearly 200 people on board). As Debra explains, the “SAMs are security directives, renewable yearly, issued by the attorney general when ‘there is a substantial risk that a prisoner’s communications, correspondence or contacts with persons could result in death or serious bodily injury’ to others.”
Exactly what was the First Amendment problem here? Debra explains:
In a hand-written complaint, [Reid] asserted that he was being illegally prevented from performing daily “group prayers in a manner prescribed by my religion.” Yet the list of Reid’s potential fellow congregants at ADX Florence [i.e., the supermax prison] reads like a Who’s Who of al Qaeda’s most dangerous members: Ramzi Yousef and his three co-conspirators in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui; “Millennium bomber” Ahmed Ressam; “Dirty bomber” Jose Padilla; Wadih el-Hage, Osama Bin Laden’s personal secretary, convicted in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing that killed 247 people.
In January, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado issued a statement saying that conditions at supermax are “simply another form of torture” worse than Gitmo which “make a mockery of ‘innocent until proven guilty.’” Last month, the ACLU filed a civil lawsuit mirroring Reid’s religious rights claim on behalf of two terrorism inmates held at the Communications Management Unit inside a medium security prison in Terre Haute, Ind. One of those inmates is Enaam Arnaout, a Syrian-born U.S. citizen serving a 10-year sentence for diverting Muslim charity money to militant Islamic groups in Bosnia and Chechnya. The other, Randall Royer, is serving 20 years for his role recruiting young Muslims in the “Virginia Jihad Network,” a group that used paintball games in 2000-2001 to train for holy war.
Sure it’s nuts, but as I detailed a couple of weeks ago, detainee policy in the Obama/Holder Justice Department is now being shaped by former Human Rights Watch lawyer Jennifer Daskal, who thinks incarceration is tantamount to torture (recall her complaint that one jihadist, “a self-styled poet,” was being subjected to severe mental trauma: He “found it was nearly impossible to write poetry anymore because the prison guards would only allow him to keep a pen or pencil in his cell for short periods of time”).
In my last column, I related the story of Mamdouh Salim, the al-Qaeda chieftain who maimed a prison guard and used the constitutional rights we gave him to try to kidnap his court-appointed lawyers in an escape attempt. The incident sits uneasily with Holder’s bold claim that “the Justice Department has a “history of securely detaining and successfully prosecuting terror suspects through the criminal-justice system.” What I didn’t point out — but Debra shows in spades — is that to have any chance of securely detaining terrorists in civilian prisons, the SAMs need to be imposed and aggressively enforced.
Yet, even as Holder is making the “securely detaining” argument out of one side of his mouth, he’s abandoning the SAMs out of the other. And all the while, Obama is pushing to close Gitmo and bring scores of these trained terrorists into the civilian prison system. It’s madness.