Napolitano defends bringing Guantanamo detainees to U.S.

October 19, 2009

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defended the Obama administration’s plans to bring terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States — countering critics who questioned whether it would create security risks.

“There’s no question in my mind that those detainees who would be moved to the United States would be held in such a fashion that they would not be any threat to public safety, and I say that as a former prosecutor,” Napolitano said in an interview during the Reuters Washington Summit. She served as a U.S. attorney in Arizona during the Clinton administration.

President Barack Obama has pledged to close the controversial prison by Jan. 22, 2010, including bringing some of the terrorism suspects to U.S. soil for trial in military commissions or U.S. criminal courts. There have been questions and doubts about whether his goal can be achieved because of political, legal and logistical complications.

Napolitano held out hope that the administration could meet the fast-approaching deadline: “I would hope so.” She declined to comment on the likely location of where the detainees could be held in the United States.

But Republicans have criticized the idea of bringing the terrorism suspects to U.S. soil, arguing that they are not entitled access to the criminal court system and could pose threats to the communities where they may be imprisoned.

Her remarks came as former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey issued a stinging condemnation of the Obama administration plan, writing in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that civilian courts were not the right place to try the terrorism suspects and could make communities, jurors and courts targets.

“Based on my experience trying such cases, and what I saw as attorney general, they aren’t. That is not to say that civilian courts cannot ever handle terrorist prosecutions, but rather that their role in a war on terror—to use an unfashionably harsh phrase—should be, as the term ‘war’ would suggest, a supporting and not a principal role,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

Mukasey served as a federal prosecutor in the 1970s and then as a federal judge in New York from 1988 to 2006, presiding over terrorism cases that included the trial of those who plotted to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993. He was attorney general under former President George W. Bush.

While Mukasey also argued in his op-ed that imprisoning terrorism suspects in the United States could expose others in the prison to their beliefs, many of the individuals convicted like Zacarias Moussaoui are kept in maximum security facilities isolated from the general population.

He also warned that U.S. criminal court procedures would risk revealing too much sensitive information and that the cases against Guantanamo detainees were not built for civilian court proceedings. Many of the hearings in U.S. District Court for petitions by prisoners seeking their release from Guantanamo have been held in closed session to protect classified information.

So do you believe U.S. criminal courts can handle the terrorism cases and would communities become targets or should terrorism suspects from Guantanamo only be tried in military commissions?

For more news from the Reuters Washington Summit, click here.

– Photo credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Napolitano speaks to the Reuters Washington Summit)


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The terrorists held at Guantanamo are the “worst of the worst” and pose a threat to both other prisoners and communities should they moved to US soil. Furthermore, to reveal sensitive intelligence gathering techniques and assets as will undoubtedly happen if they are tried in civilian courts is both foolhardy and destructive to our national interests. They should remain at Guantanamo and be tried there in military tribunals.

Posted by Vernon Twyman | Report as abusive

These prisoners are no more dangerous than any other prisoners in US or state custody. Our law enforcement officers are the finest in the world and can easily control and isolate these suspects while they stand trial.
This is yet another unsolved mess that President Obama inherited from Bush. Just about everything on President Obama’s plate is unfinished business and problems that Bush and the Republicans created.

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive

We’ve had worse on our soil already, held in Navy brigs in Charleston SC. No real reason why we can’t have more here again though there will be plenty of excuses found for why not. At to trying them, the previous maladministration should have thought of that before the “enhanced interrogated” them, but I guess that was against their swaggering self-image.

Posted by borisjimbo | Report as abusive

I wish people would wake up and remember what these animals are in prison for. They did not break into someone’s homes or steal a car or jay walk. They are responsible for committing or planning acts of terrorism against the US. What’s wrong with Guitmo? These people are not Americans and are not entitled to court proceedings as would be an American citizen. They are not POW’s either. They fought under no flag that signed the Geneva Convention. They are scum. Why are we wasting our breath arguing about them? If our president, or you bleeding heart liberals want to take them in your living rooms, fine, but don’t let them set foot on American soil. Yeh go ahead and Blame it on Bush – he forced them to commit terrorist acts. Get a grip and a life!

Posted by Harry | Report as abusive

I find it funny that the same people that screamed about Gitmo being open, now think that the “TERRORISTS” will be better off in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. Oh, it’s not over yet. we have yet to hear from the treasoness ACLU about this.

Three squares a day. An hour a day in the rec yard…excellent!!! They should be put into the general population. That would be justice!!!

Posted by Montgomery Burns | Report as abusive

americans are the top terrorist in the world

Posted by Lluyde Dlen | Report as abusive

I do think we need to show the world that we are capable of justice for all. We need to move quickly to move these detainees into our country and make sure that they have fair trials in open courts. We do need an alternate plan to the methods we have been using.

Posted by f belz | Report as abusive

We asked ourselves and the folks in Leavenworth KS and through statements from KS folks in Congress, Why the Leavenworth Community would object to adding a few more inmates? The Leavenworth Civilian and Military prisons have seen the “badest of the bad” locked up in their facilities. It is almost counter-intuitive to think that a Town which has depended on the prisons as a source of employment and a good slice of its economy to turn thumbs-down on such a deal. Answer: As bad as the historic residents in the prisons have been, none had an organized group dedicated to “spring them” by force. A frontal attack on the “big house” was not the threat. The threat was that it places town’s people at risk of becoming pawns of a future attempt to liberate the terrorists. Kidnapping a couple of kindergardens has a very pursuasive has potential. Jim

Posted by Jim Blair | Report as abusive

The story is not the moving of terrorism detainies to the United States but the multitude of abused US Citizens through the failed policies of the US Department of Homeland Security and Ms. Napalitano’s dishonesty with the citizens of the United States about errors in oversight that have harmed US Families, destroyed or confiscated property and harmed our global reputation as a free society.

Ms. Napolitano is not fullfilling her responsibilties to the people of the united states to not abuse secrecy in order to cover up internal problems with US Government Agencies overstepping their legal boundries with certain subjects and the lack of affirmation and compensation for the severely harmed.

Fess Up.

Posted by James Reginald Harris, Jr | Report as abusive

Vernon Twyman is misinformed or misguided. Scores of terrorists have already been tried in federal courts are are, as we blog, being successfully held in federal prisons – there has never been a breakout from maximum security prisons in the US. A fraction of the 225 “detainees” currently at GTMO are clearly culpable – about 80 who are there now have already been cleared for release because they were sold for bigtime cash to American troops, and a host of other false reasons, and finding a country to send them to is in the works. Others are more than questionably held. I keep up on this – I want the guilty punished for killing my nephew in the WTC. But I don’t want to continue the evil farce that is Guantanamo – bring them here and try them under the law system that has worked fro over 200 years.

Posted by Valerie Lucznikowska | Report as abusive

Most of the people there are innocent victims who were kidnapped and sold for bounties. The Bush administration knew this and did nothing (exept for Colin Powell who tried to fix the situation and failed. These were scalps. They needed warm bodies to lock up and demonize. Places like Guantanamo are symptoms of a closing society. The Cheney and Rumsfield should be in prison. The crime at Guantanamo was the prison itself.

Posted by Ace High | Report as abusive