Rich, I think there’s an important difference, though. The foreign demagoguery about Gitmo has never been anything but demagoguery. To the contrary, what you’re referring to as the “domestic demagoguery” is more complex. It combines a single arguably overheated claim, namely, fear that the terrorists might escape, with several entirely legitimate concerns. Shrewdly, President Obama capitalized on this fact in his speech yesterday — addressing only the overheated concern about escape while not going anywhere near the far more substantial worries. I think the latter merit outlining:
1. The Promotion of Terrorism Concern. Imprisoned terrorists can inspire, plan and direct acts of terrorism from American prisons. This is not a hypothetical concern; it is richly documented. Sayyid Nosair helped plan and urge the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center from Attica State Prison. The 1993 WTC bombers, despite being in maximum security conditions, managed to communicate by letter with al Qaeda cells in Spain. Attorney Lynne Stewart, among others, was convicted for helping the Blind Sheikh (Omar Abdel Rahman) run his Egyptian terrorist organization, al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya or “the Islamic Group,” from his high-security U.S. prison confinement. Osama bin Laden, moreover, credits the Blind Sheikh with issuing the fatwa that approved the 9/11 attacks from the same confinement. (To quote from the Lynne Stewart terrorism case indictment in New York: “For instance, in a message to his followers recorded while he was in prison, Abdel Rahman stated that it was the duty of all Muslims to set free any imprisoned fellow Muslims, and that “[t]he Sheikh is calling on you, morning and evening. Oh Muslims! Oh Muslims! And he finds no respondents. It is a duty upon all the Muslims around the world to come to free the Sheikh, and to rescue him from his jail.” (Emphasis added.) Referring to the United States, Abdel Rahman implored, “Muslims everywhere, dismember their nation, tear them apart, ruin their economy, provoke their corporations, destroy their embassies, attack their interests, sink their ships, and shoot down their planes, kill them on land, at sea, and in the air. Kill them wherever you find them” (emphasis added)).
Relatedly, quite apart from the Lynne Stewart case, terrorists have been known to use their lawyers, paralegals and investigators to communicate messages to each other and to the outside world. You don’t need to believe that the lawyers et al. are willingly complicit in this (they could be being duped) in order to grasp that it is a major problem Obviously, it is a far bigger problem if it is going on inside the U.S. than at Gitmo.
2. The Violence to Facilitate Escape or Release Concern. While it would be virtually impossible for an inmate in a supermax facility to escape, that makes little difference to members of terrorist organizations who are at large and who constantly plot either direct escape attempts or other acts of terrorism aimed at extorting the release of their imprisoned cohorts. So, for example, when the WTC was bombed in 1993, the other top project on the cell’s agenda was breaking Nosair out of Attica. When the WTC bombers were arrested, their co-conspirators plotted several atrocities (a conspiracy to murder Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on a trip to New York and a plot to bomb New York City landmarks) which, in part, were designed (as they discussed in recorded conversations) to induce American authorities to release the prisoners.
Further, to quote again from the Stewart indictment, in 1996, “a statement, issued in the name of the Islamic Group, responded to the sentence of life imprisonment imposed on [Sheikh Omar] Abdel Rahman by threatening, “All American interests will be legitimate targets for our struggle until the release of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and his brothers. As the American Government has opted for open confrontation with the Islamic movementand the Islamic symbols of struggle, al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya swears by God to its irreversible vow to take an eye for an eye.” In 1997, the Islamic Group reiterated: “The Islamic Group declares all American interests legitimate targets to its legitimate jihad until the release of all prisoners, on top of whom [is the Blind Sheikh].” Later in 1997, over 50 tourists were slaughtered in Luxor, Egypt, by members of the Blind Sheikh’s organization (the Islamic Group). As the afore-quoted indictment recounts: “the torso of one victim was slit by the terrorists and a leaflet calling for Abdel Rahman’s release was inserted.”
The Stewart indictment adds:
In or about March 2000, individuals claiming association with the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group kidnapped approximately 29 hostages in the Philippines, demanded the release from prison of Abdel Rahman and two other convicted terrorists in exchange for the release of those hostages, and threatened to behead hostages if their demands were not met. Philippine authorities later found two decomposed, beheaded bodiesin an area where the hostages had been held, and four hostageswere ‘unaccounted for.’
On or about September 21, 2000, an Arabic television station, Al Jazeera, televised a meeting of Usama Bin Laden (leader of the al Qaeda terrorist organization), Ayman al Zawahiri (former leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad organization and one of Bin Laden’s top lieutenants), and [Rifa’i Ahmad Taha Musa, the then-leader of the Islamic Group]. Sitting under a banner which read, “Convention to Support Honorable Omar Abdel Rahman,” the three terrorist leaders pledged to free Abdel Rahman from incarceration in the United States. During the meeting, Mohammed Abdel Rahman, … a son of Abdel Rahman, was heard encouraging others to “avenge your Sheikh” and “go to the spilling of blood.”
Obviously, some of this would happen whether prisoners were incarcerated in the U.S. or not, but concerns about escape plots will cause major security issues in states, cities and towns where the prisoners are held.
3. The Violence Against Prison Guards Concern. The highest ranking member of al Qaeda ever brought to the U.S. is Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, one of the network’s founders who was indicted in the embassy bombings case. He never stood trial for those atrocities, however. That’s because he attempted to murder Bureau of Prisons guard Louis Pepe (by sticking a shiv through his eye and several inches into his brain). Interestingly, Salim chose a meeting with his U.S. taxpayer-funded defense lawyers — ostensibly for “trial preparation” — as the perfect time to execute his escape plot. He was planning to kidnap the lawyers to facilitate the escape of himself and other terrorists.
Meanwhile, in 2006, Mark Levin’s Landmark Legal Foundation induced the Pentagon, under the Freedom of Information Act, to disclose reports documenting hundreds of assaults on prison guards at Guantanamo Bay – and it’s worth noting that that was three years ago and, while there are now less prisoners at Gitmo, it’s still extremely dangerous there. The information released in connection with combatant status review tribunals refers to plenty of inmate violence. Indeed, in connection with the Uighurs — the trained terrorists Obama wants to release into the U.S. because they’re purportedly not a threat to us — the Los Angeles Times recently reported an incident in which a Uighur prisoner flung a television set to the ground because a woman with bare arms had been depicted on it.
Again, these would be concerns wherever the prisoners were incarcerated, but it is far better to have these problems in a military facility outside the U.S.
4. The “What Happens When They’re Released” Concern. In my mind, there is only one reason why the Uighurs are still in custody: They have never been transferred into the United States, and therefore the federal immigration law that renders them inadmissible has proved a very steep hurdle for the administration. Putting aside such technical legalities as that it should not matter whether an excludable/deportable alien is physically in or out of the U.S. (i.e., his immigration status is still the same), we all know as a practical matter it matters a lot. As Mark Krikorian will doubtless attest, although we don’t do a good job at keeping out of our country those who shouldn’t be here, we do a hell of a lot better job at that than we do at kicking out illegal aliens once they are here.
Almost no one gets deported if it would be burdensome to deport him. Bear in mind that most of the detainees we are talking about (a) would already have been transferred to other countries if other countries were willing to take them, which means they will continue to be nigh-impossible to extradite, and (b) will not be tried for war crimes — which means, over time, political and legal pressure against continuing to detain them without trial will grow. As long as they are outside the United States, immigration law is likely to keep them outside the U.S. (see, e.g., the Uighurs). But if they are physically present in the U.S., judges will not regard the statute rendering them inadmissible to be much of a bar — after all, the judges will reason, these people have already have been admitted into the country (legally untrue but factually undeniable). After a time, judges will begin ordering their release (as we know, one judge has already tried to do that even though the Uighurs are still at Gitmo).
Finally on this point, I note that in 2001, the Supreme Court (in Zadvydas v. Davis) concocted a due process right for even deportable/excludable aliens to be released on bail, in the U.S., if the government fails to deport them within a statutorily prescribed period. Eventually, Gitmo detainees brought to the U.S. would get the benefit of this ruling — bet on it.
I don’t think any of these concerns is demagogic. Each is very real and, taken together or apart, these concerns vastly outweigh Obama’s (and the Left’s) imaginary concern that the continued operation of the Gitmo detention camp renders us less safe.