Lawmakers are angry at the Obama administration for deciding to try the son-in-law of Osama bin Laden in civilian court, sans any notification to or consultation with Congress.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, 47, pleaded not guilty today in federal court in New York to charges of conspiracy to kill Americans. The Kuwaiti preacher was turned over to the U.S. by Jordan after reportedly being caught by the Turks.
“Rather than issuing doomsday predictions about sequestration, the President should be notifying Congress that he’s planning a U.S. civilian court trial for a terrorist who took credit for 9/11 and is on video threatening to blow up more U.S. buildings and planes,” Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said today.
“The president may not like it, but the fact remains—Gitmo is still up and running. And as long as it is, it’s the only place where we should be detaining America’s most dangerous enemy combatants—period,” he added.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) charged that the administration’s decision could impede intelligence collection.
“Every day our intelligence community strives to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda, and to locate its leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Our intelligence community and military are laboring to understand the structure, threat and communications methods of al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen, North Africa and the growing threat of the Al Nusra Front within Syria. They deserve the same access to intelligence and methods of defeating the enemy available to the team that found Bin laden,” McConnell said.
“The decision of the President to import Sulaiman Abu Ghaith into the United States solely for civilian prosecution makes little sense, and reveals, yet again, a stubborn refusal to avoid holding additional terrorists at the secure facility at Guantanamo Bay despite the circumstances. At Guantanamo, he could be held as a detainee and fulsomely and continuously interrogated without having to overcome the objections of his civilian lawyers,” he continued.
“From public reports it is clear that Abu Ghaith possesses valuable knowledge of al Qaeda’s activities within Iran. Abu Ghaith has sworn to kill Americans, and he likely possesses information that could prevent harm to America and its allies. He is an enemy combatant and should be held in military custody.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said yesterday the White House “should treat enemy combatants like the enemy – the U.S. court system is not the appropriate venue.”
“I think a trial on American soil could be a difficult thing for any Al Qaida member that they might be considering bringing back from overseas. We have a facility. It is with the best trained guard force that not only has to protect people from the inside getting out, but from the outside getting in, which a lot of American prisons are not quite used to, and they’re very well equipped to handle special needs prisoners, high threat prisoners the way that some senior Al Qaida member might be, and we have a way to provide trial and counsel and all of those things,” Rogers said yesterday on MSNBC.
“It’s at Gitmo. It’s Guantanamo Bay. But really, if you think about it, that makes the most logical sense, and we’ve invested a lot of U.S. taxpayer dollars getting that facility right and in the right positioning to handle that kind of high risk, high threat Al Qaida prisoner.”