Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Bizarre Mix of Counterterrorism & Legalism

The strange mixture of counterterrorism and legalism of the Obama administration is what jumped out at me when I read a Washington Post story about a Somali indicted on terrorism charges. Consider whether or not you'd expect these things to go together.
  • The secret capture of a "terrorism suspect" in the Gulf of Aden
  • Two months of daily or almost daily secret interrogations with no justice department involvement
  • Suspect eventually advised of Miranda "rights" and "right" to legal representation
  • Suspect flown secretly flown to New York and indicted by a federal grand jury on conspiracy charges.
Is this man an enemy or a criminal? The Obama administration doesn't know, and like most things, they want to have it both ways. They secretly capture and interrogate someone who has apparently committed no crime against the U.S., and then later go through the ridiculous farce of advising him of rights which he shouldn't even possess as a presumed hostile non-U.S. citizen. According to the article,
The nine-count indictment, ..., does not accuse Warsame of carrying out or plotting attacks against U.S. targets. It charges him with conspiracy and providing material support to two groups the United States considers terrorist organizations: al-Shabab, a militant Islamist group opposed to Somalia’s weak, U.S.-backed government, and Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Warsame is also accused of weapons offenses related to both alleged conspiracies; conspiracy to teach and demonstrate explosive-making; and receiving military training from AQAP.
This case raises many questions. How is a foreigner who assists some terrorist groups outside the U.S. somehow subject to U.S. laws and a reasonable subject of a U.S. indictment? On the one hand the Obama administration acts to neutralize someone they see as an enemy or potential enemy, but on the other it tries to cover the act with a veneer of legalism -- going so far as to manufacture an indictment. How are we able to charge people with crimes for simply being a part of some foreign terrorist group, when the person hasn't actually done anything against the U.S.? Does the existence of groups such as al-Shabab automatically cause anyone having anything to do with them to be engaged in a conspiracy under U.S. law? Why are we wasting time and money hauling some Somali to the U.S. for a trial? What purpose will this accomplish?

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