On Fox News Sunday, debating Sen. Jon Kyl (R, AZ), Sen. Ben Nelson (D, NE) was incoherent on Guantanamo Bay. He wants us to try war criminals and then, once they’re convicted, he’d have us … send them to other countries (where they’d likely be released). But, he said, those terrorists who violate American law can be incarcerated in the U.S.
Sheesh. When we talk about transferring detainees, we are generally talking about terrorists who cannot be tried because we don’t have enough usable, admissible evidence. For the smaller category of terrorists who have committed provable war crimes (e.g., Khalid Sheikh Mohammed), we only go through the severe burden of trying them by commission in order to seek convictions that will allow us to incarcerate them for decades (or even seek their execution). If we’re going to go through that exercise, we don’t want to send them to another country where they won’t serve their sentences — we need to take care of that ourselves. Finally, war crimes against the United States are violations of American law. It is true that some terrorists are apprehended and tried in the U.S. under civilian criminal justice rules, while others are apprehended by the military and held/tried under military justice. But all these matters are controlled by American law.