Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Releasing Terror Suspects on Bail

Suspected terrorist Ali al-Marri has a bond hearing today. That's right, the so-called "Al Qaeda sleeper agent" is being considered for bail. It's kind of funny in an unbelievably stupid sort of way. Here we have an individual, a Qatari national, who has been deemed a great enough threat (apparently based on substantial evidence) that he's been held in military prison for five years as an enemy combatant. But now we are actually considering letting him walk free on bail while awaiting trial. What possible risk could come from letting a suspected terrorist loose in the U.S.?

Now granted, the fact that this situation exists at all is the fault of the Bush administration, who simply decided to lock people away indefinitely with no effective plan for what to do with them. In my opinion the obvious known terrorists should have been condemned by military tribunal and executed. This includes Al Marri, if we know for a fact that he trained at an Al Qaeda camp, as the Washington Post timeline I linked indicates. Any suspects facing charges in other countries, where we were sure they would be imprisoned or executed, should have been deported and disposed of that way. Those with no real evidence against them should have been deported to anyone willing to take them and held in protective, but much more lenient confinement in the meantime. The questionable cases should have been tried by military tribunal. If any country interceded on the behalf of a suspect (such as Britain with Binyam Mohamed), we could have treated those cases on an individual basis.

But as we are now seeing, the worst idea of all is to treat foreign terrorist suspects as criminals, allow them access to civilian lawyers, and provide them with undeserved rights under the criminal justice system.  We now face the ridiculous situation where a lawyer is arguing that a suspected Al Qaeda terrorist from Qatar should be free to roam around the U.S. while awaiting trial. And we actually have to take that argument seriously, instead of dismissing it out of hand with the derision that it clearly deserves. Putting foreign terror suspects into the U.S. criminal justice system isn't a victory for civil liberties, American values, or the rule of law, it's a triumph of stupidity over reason.


  1. Fortunately the presiding judge was unconvinced by the arguments for bail and denied it. I wish all federal judges could be counted upon to show the same sort of sense, but as we've seen plenty of times in the past, you just never know how a particular judge is going to rule.