Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a Somali terror suspect accused of providing support to Al Shabab and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, will be brought to a conventional courtroom on U.S. soil. Warsame was interrogated overseas for intelligence purposes for two months before finally being transferred to FBI custody and brought to the United States Tuesday. The decision pleases supporters frustrated with President Obama for not holding firm on promises to begin trying terrorism suspects in civilian court and to shut down Guantonomo Bay. Republican lawmakers on the other hand are not so delighted.
“‘It’s astonishing that this Administration is determined to give foreign fighters all the rights and privileges of U.S. citizens regardless of where they are captured,’said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor this morning, ‘And now Warsame, an enemy combatant with ties to Al-Qaeda who was captured overseas and detained by the military for months, is now in the United States awaiting trial as a civilian criminal suspect. It is not necessary to bring or continue to harbor these terrorists within the United States. The infrastructure is already in place to handle these dangerous individuals at Guantanamo.’”
“Why is it so hard for President Obama to acknowledge what the majority of Americans already know: foreign terrorists are enemies of America,’ chimed Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith.’They should not be tried as common criminals, but as terrorists in military commissions at Guantanamo Bay.”
“The transfer of this terrorist detainee directly contradicts Congressional intent and the will of the American people,’ said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon in a statement. ‘Congress has spoken clearly multiple times — including explicitly in pending legislation — of the perils of bringing terrorists onto U.S. soil.”‘
Warsame was captured April 19 on a boat traveling between Yemen and Somalia. Up until Tuesday Warsame was held for military questioning on a U.S. Navy ship where significant intelligence is believed to have been extracted. The Washington Post reported that an official described Warsame as “an important conduit between” Al Qaeda and Al Shabab, and that another official described his interrogation as “very, very productive.”
Military Officials affirmed that while on the Navy Ship Warsame was “at all times treated in a manner consistent with all Department of Defense policies”–following the Army field Manual– and the Geneva Conventions.
In reaction to Republican outrage, Democrat and former fellow Illinois Senator Dick Durbin came to the President’s defense Wednesday. ABC News:
“‘The bottom line, though, is to say to any president, whether it’s Republican George Bush or Democrat Barack Obama, congress is going to tell you the best place to try a terrorist. Do we really have that expertise? I don’t,’ Durbin said, ‘I’m not sure Senator McConnell does. I think it’s up to the president, the secretary of defense, the central intelligence agency, and the attorney general to make that call. Take the would-be terrorist to the court where we’re most likely to convict. Take him to a tribunal where they’re going to get a fair hearing in the eyes of the world and conviction is most likely.”
Centrist and often left-siding Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine argued however it is not a matter of ‘expertise’ but more so common sense. Siding with her party, Sen Collins wrote in a statement supporting Sen. McConnell’s argument:
“A foreign national who fought on behalf of al Shabaab in Somali — and who was captured by our military overseas — should be tried in a military commission, not a federal civilian court in New York or anywhere else in our country.
While decisions on the proper tribunal should be made on a case-by-case basis, this case does not appear to be a close call”
The administration did not disclose Warsame’s capture until Tuesday, after he arrived in New York. The majority of GOP lawmakers have long argued that foreign terror suspects be tried in military commissions rather than civilian courts. The decision made by President Obama on Warsame could have implications to high-profile terror cases in the future, FOX News:
“But the move, first reported by Fox News, offers a glimpse into how the U.S. government may handle foreign terror suspects captured overseas in the wake of the Justice Department’s failed attempt to prosecute the alleged conspirators of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in a civilian court in New York City. Congress has blocked administration efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and many believe military interrogation is the most effective way to obtain valuable intelligence.”
Judging by their comments on today’s news, Congress will continue to let the President know that his views on detaining terror suspects are not in line with his fellow legislators, and perhaps not in line with the views of the American people.