CANTOR’S LIES NEED WORK…. It wasn’t long after Ahmed Ghailani was charged as a terrorist in an American court that congressional Republicans turned the demagoguery dial to 11. Take, for example, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who was even more inane than usual in an MSNBC appearance this morning.

“Well, you know … it’s just counterintuitive. Why in the world would somebody be so focused on the rights of a terrorist instead of keeping Americans safe? There are so many unanswered questions about bringing these detainees on to U.S. soil. We have no judicial precedents for the conviction of someone like this. It is just wrong for us to be bringing these detainees here given the current situation and the unanswered questions. We ought to be putting the safety of American citizens first.”

The next time someone suggests Cantor is a sensible lawmaker whose perspective has value — a claim I hear with some regularity from Republican contacts — keep this morning’s ridiculous fearmongering in mind. Either Cantor doesn’t know what he’s talking about — a distinct possibility — or he thinks Americans are fools. Either way, this was an embarrassing display for someone in a position of “leadership.”

As it turns out, the Justice Department expected lawmakers to spout this nonsense, and was kind enough to send me this fact sheet, which documents the lengthy and impressive record the government has in prosecuting terrorist cases. Cantor’s claims aren’t merely wrong, they’re the opposite of reality.

Since the 1990s, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) has investigated and successfully prosecuted a wide range of international and domestic terrorism cases — including the bombings of the World Trade Center and U.S. Embassies in East Africa in the 1990s. More recent cases include those against individuals who provided material support to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, as well as against international arms trafficker Monzer al Kassar and the Somalian pirate charged in the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama. […]

Nationwide, the Justice Department and its U.S. Attorney’s offices have prosecuted many terrorism cases in recent months and years. Last year, Human Rights First published a comprehensive study on prosecuting terrorism in federal court from 9/11 through the end of 2007. The study, entitled: “In Pursuit of Justice: Prosecuting Terrorism Cases in the Federal Court,” found that federal prosecutors achieved a conviction rate of more than 90 percent in the set of terrorism cases examined by the report’s authors. The study examined a specific set of 257 defendants charged with terrorism related violations in the United States between 9/11 and the end of 2007. Of the 160 defendants from this group who had their cases resolved, 145 were convicted of at least one count, either by a verdict of guilty after trial or by a guilty plea. […]

There are currently 216 inmates in Bureau of Prisons (BOP) custody who have a history of/or nexus to international terrorism. Sixty seven of these individuals were extradited to the United States for prosecution, while 149 were not extradited. Seventy two of these individuals are U.S. citizens (45 of them born in the United States, 27 of them naturalized). The “Supermax” facility in Florence, Colo. (ADX Florence), which is BOP’s most secure facility, houses 33 of these international terrorists. There has never been an escape from ADX Florence, and BOP has housed some of these international terrorists since the early 1990s. In addition to the ADX Florence, the BOP houses such individuals in the Communications Management Units at Terre Haute, Ind., and Marion, Ill., as well as in other facilities among different institutions around the country.

It’s safe to assume Eric Cantor will want to apologize for his demonstrably ridiculous claims to a national television audience, right? After all, I’m sure a responsible congressional leader didn’t intend to blatantly lie about national security like this. With the Justice Department setting the record straight, using an easy-to-read memo that even Cantor can understand, the Minority Whip will no doubt want to retract his insulting attacks.

Any minute now.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.