Chill Out

From the NYT:

“Is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed coming to a prison near you?

One day after President Obama ordered that the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, be shuttered, lawmakers in Washington wrestled with the implications of bringing dozens of the 245 remaining inmates onto American soil.

Republican lawmakers, who oppose Mr. Obama’s plan, found a talking point with political appeal. They said closing Guantanamo could allow dangerous terrorists to get off on legal technicalities and be released into quiet neighborhoods across the United States. If the detainees were convicted, the Republicans continued, American prisons housing terrorism suspects could become magnets for attacks.

Meanwhile, none of the Democrats who on Thursday hailed the closing of the detention camp were stepping forward to offer prisons in their districts or states to receive the prisoners.”

Jim Geraghty explains why housing terrorists in US prisons would be much worse than housing all the dangerous people who are already there:

“It’s hard to picture militia members, the Crips, Bloods, or what have you doing something as extreme as, say, crashing a plane into the prison to faciliate an escape and/or provide martyrdom to their brethren.”

As Glenn Greenwald notes, there are already terrorists in US prisons. He helpfully provides a partial list:

Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, convicted, 1996, U.S. District Court (before then-U.S. District Judge Michael Mukasey) — plotting terrorist attacks on the U.S. (currently: U.S. prison, Butler, North Carolina);

Zacarias Moussaoui, convicted, 2006, U.S. Federal Court — conspiracy to commit the 9/11 attacks (currently: U.S. prison, Florence, Colorado);

Richard Reid, convicted, 2003, U.S. Federal Court — attempting to blow up U.S.-bound jetliner over the Atlantic Ocean (currently: U.S. prison, Florence, Colorado);

Jose Padilla, convicted, 2007, U.S. Federal Court — conspiracy to commit terrorism (currently: U.S. prison, Florence, Colorado);

Iyman Faris a/k/a/ Mohammad Rauf, convicted, 2003, U.S. Federal Court — providing material support and resources to Al-Qaeda, conspiracy to commit terrorist acts on behalf of Al Qaeda (currently: U.S. prison, Florence, Colorado);

Ali Saleh al-Marri, accused Al Qaeda operative — not yet tried, held as “unlawful enemy combatant” (currently: U.S. Naval Brig, Hanahan, South Carolina);

Masoud Khan, convicted, 2004, U.S. Federal Court — conspiracy to commit terrorism as part of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Islamic jihad (currently: U.S. prison, Terre Haute, Indiana);

John Walker Lindh, convicted, 2002, U.S. Federal Court — providing material support to the Taliban (currently: U.S. prison, Florence, Colorado).

Curiously, no jihadists have flown planes into prisons to facilitate the escapes of any of these terrorists. Maybe they’re waiting until we have been lulled into a false sense of security. Since the blind Sheikh has been in prison for over a decade, they are showing a lot of patience. Maybe, on the other hand, Jim Geraghty and the Repubicans in Congress just have hyperactive imaginations.

Moreover, it’s not as though terrorists are the only dangerous people with associates who would be prepared to do a lot to spring them. Consider drug kingpins, for instance: they generally have lots of money and large organizations, and while I’m not sure they would fly planes into prisons (??), they could probably think of less lurid ways to spring people.

And yet the United States, under George W. Bush, actually sought to have these dangerous people extradited to the United States, exposing our citizens to danger! Not only that, we succeeded! For instance, Francisco Javier Arellano Felix, the head of the Tijuana cartel, is now locked up in San Diego. We are seeking the extradition of his brother Eduardo, and have several other high-ranking members the cartel in custody. OMG!! Americans are at risk!!! What shall we do???

I suggest chilling out. We are talking about maximum security prisons, which are designed to keep very dangerous people locked up. If our government decides that extra resources are needed to keep terrorists safely behind bars, it has very capable people who could be deployed for that purpose.

This would also be a good time for members of Congress to show some leadership. They need to explain to their constituents that there are already a whole lot of very dangerous people in our prisons, that some of them are terrorists, and that no one has flown planes into prisons to rescue them yet.