On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper sent a letter to Senate Republicans defending their decision to transfer alleged al Shabaab member Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame to U.S. soil for trial in federal court.
Among the reasons cited is that establishing jurisdiction in the military commissions system would require disclosure of classified evidence that wouldn't be necessary in civilian court. Because of legal restrictions, Warsame wouldn't be able to simply be tried by military commission, prosecutors would have to prove that he's eligible to be tried in that forum. In a House Armed Services Committee hearing earlier this week, University of Texas Law Professor Robert Chesney made that exact point, only to be curtly rebutted by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who pointed out that a list of unindicted coconspirators was revealed during the 1993 prosecution of the first World Trade Center bomber, "Blind Sheik" Omar Abdul Rahman. Of course that wasn't the fault of the courts themselves, but the prosecutor in the case, who failed to ask for the list to be classified. That prosecutor was Andrew McCarthy, who has, somewhat ironically, gone on to become an evangelist against the use of federal courts to try suspected terrorists even though it was technically his fault that the information in question was exposed.
The most extraordinary part of the letter however, is the contrast between how much it costs to detain someone at Guantanamo rather than trying them in federal court. According to the letter, the Department of Defense spends $800,000 per detainee at Gitmo, or $150 million a year. Federal prisons, on the other hand, spend $25,000 per prisoner, meaning that Gitmo costs 32 times more per prisoner per year.
Republicans don't just want to keep Gitmo from closing, they want to make it harder to transfer prisoners to other countries and ensure future terror suspects, even those captured domestically, are sent there. So much for an age of austerity--when it comes to Gitmo, Republicans are willing to spend like Newt Gingrich at Tiffany's just to protect Americans from Muslim Heat Vision.
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