On American soil

ON AMERICAN SOIL…. This paragraph, about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab following his failed terrorist attempt about Northwest Airlines Flight 253, seems rather innocuous, because it is rather innocuous.

A Justice Department official said Abdulmutallab was released Sunday from a Michigan hospital where he was treated for burns suffered in the failed bombing. He was in a federal prison in Milan, Mich., according to the Associated Press. He is scheduled to appear in federal court in Michigan on Jan. 8.

As far as I can tell, these bland details do not seem to have caused any meaningful stir whatsoever. Nor should they. But I think we can all imagine the various right-wing hysterics that could come up right about now.

A terrorist tried to blow up an airplane and murder hundreds of Americans … and we’re keeping him on American soil? Won’t that make Michigan a magnet for al Qaeda? How can the Obama administration let this security risk exist in a Michigan community? Where’s Pete Hoekstra and John Boehner when Michiganders need them?

And Abdulmutallab is going to appear in an American criminal court? What if he uses the platform to spew hateful propaganda? To a borrow a line from Rep. John Shadegg (R) of Arizona, won’t the court proceedings encourage al Qaeda members to kidnap the mayor’s daughter, the court clerk’s kids, and the jailer’s siblings?

All of this is, of course, quite foolish, and deliberately so. Abdulmutallab is, by all appearances, a two-bit thug. His presence in a federal prison, and later in a federal criminal court, is not cause for panic. It’s simply the justice system at work — we’ve done this before; we’ll do this again. It’s best not to freak out.

But the larger point has broader applicability. Bringing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to a federal court need not terrify Americans, nor should Khalid Sheik Mohammed’s proceedings. Putting Abdulmutallab behind bars on American soil does not undermine our national security, and nor would any of the detainees at Gitmo.

If federal plans for Abdulmutallab are not causing right-wing apoplexy, neither should any of the other administration plans regarding due process and detainee transfers.