Attorney General Eric Holder dodged and weaved in response to tough questioning by Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee yesterday mainly on the issue of whether dangerous terrorist detainees would be brought to the United States from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Several of the members asked Holder — again and again, in a variety of ways — precisely how bringing trained terrorists into the United States would make America safer. All Holder would say is that he believes we are safer if Gitmo is closed than if it remains open.
After the all-day session, it’s once again apparent that the Obama administration has no plan — and according to Holder has made no final decisions — about what will be done with the 241 inmates at Gitmo once the state-of-the-art facility is closed by next January in accordance with President Obama’s announced decision.
Judiciary Committee member Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) spoke with HUMAN EVENTS at one of the breaks during the hearing about the proposed Gitmo closing.
“They’re still trying to figure it out, and the closer it gets to January 22 the less logical that decision might be,” King said. “I saw the Executive Order posted on the bulletin board in the common area for the detainees to read down at Gitmo underneath a piece of plexi-glass, seven pages in English, about the same number of pages in Arabic. It is a promise to the Gitmo detainees that they will not be on that island a day beyond January 22, 2010.
“This administration is determined to close Gitmo, and it will result in detainees and enemy combatants being released, most of them to their home countries. Many of them will come back and attack Americans and free people and I am just certain that if you release 241 of the worst of the worst, wherever you send them it will end up with innocent people being killed, and among them are likely to be Americans,” King said.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, spoke in his opening remarks about the dangers to the American people posed by this arbitrary action.
“Before the administration transfers detainees to the United States, the American people need to know why al Qaeda financial specialists, organizational experts, bomb-makers, and recruiters are being sent to our shores,” Smith said. “This will certainly give new purpose to ‘neighborhood watch’ programs.”
In one of the more telling exchanges of the hearing, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), a former California attorney general, pressed Holder about the detrimental impact to our domestic legal system that would be caused by the introduction of these terrorists into our federal courts. It only takes one far-left activist judge to release these terrorists outright after coming to the absurd conclusion that these enemies captured in combat situations were not read their Miranda rights, were improperly searched, or were not given access to an attorney on the battlefield.
[Transcripts edited for length.]
Rep. Dan Lungren: You don’t disagree with my argument though that having them on U.S. soil at least gives them a stronger opportunity to argue that they have a full panoply of Constitutional rights vis a vis being held in the United States — at least that’s been the traditional view of the federal courts, correct?
Attorney General Eric Holder: I think they could certainly argue that, but if you look at the way the courts have progressively dealt with the detainees at Guantanamo, the progression of it is pretty obvious that although they were not on American soil, they were getting more and more rights given to them starting with habeas and Hamdan and cases like that.
Lungren: We eliminate any question by bringing them to the United States as opposed to sitting in Guantanamo.
Holder: I’m not sure about that. I’m not sure.
Lungren: Well, they certainly don’t have a weakened position, do they?
Lungren then switched gears to a line of questioning aimed at clarifying the Obama Justice Department’s definition of torture. In one of the rare times he gave a straight answer, Holder stated at the hearing that in his view water-boarding is torture. Lundgren asked if it was the Justice Department’s position that Navy SEALS subjected to waterboarding as part of their training were being tortured.
Holder: No, it’s not torture in the legal sense because you’re not doing it with the intention of harming these people physically or mentally, all we’re trying to do is train them —
Lungren: So it’s the question of intent?
Holder: Intent is a huge part.
Lungren: So if the intent was to solicit information but not do permanent harm, how is that torture?
Holder: Well, it… uh… it… one has to look at… ah… it comes out to question of fact as one is determining the intention of the person who is administering the waterboarding. When the Communist Chinese did it, when the Japanese did it, when they did it in the Spanish Inquisition we knew then that was not a training exercise they were engaging in. They were doing it in a way that was violative of all of the statutes recognizing what torture is. What we are doing to our own troops to equip them to deal with any illegal act — that is not torture.
We’re training our troops to deal with illegal acts? Can you imagine this guy in combat?
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), a former judge, continued the “intent” line of questioning in an attempt to make some sense of the attorney general’s tortured logic.
Rep. Louie Gohmert: Whether waterboarding is torture you say is an issue of intent. If our officers when waterboarding have no intent and in fact knew absolutely they would do no permanent harm to the person being waterboarded, and the only intent was to get information to save people in this country then they would not have tortured under your definition, isn’t that correct?
Attorney General Eric Holder: No, not at all. Intent is a fact question, it’s a fact specific question.
Gohmert: So what kind of intent were you talking about?
Holder: Well, what is the intention of the person doing the act? Was it logical that the result of doing the act would have been to physically or mentally harm the person?
Gohmert: I said that in my question. The intent was not to physically harm them because they knew there would be no permanent harm — there would be discomfort but there would be no permanent harm — knew that for sure. So, is the intent, are you saying it’s in the mind of the one being water-boarded, whether they felt they had been tortured. Or is the intent in the mind of the actor who knows beyond any question that he is doing no permanent harm, that he is only making them think he’s doing harm.
Holder: The intent is in the person who would be charged with the offense, the actor, as determined by a trier of fact looking at all of the circumstances. That is ultimately how one decides whether or not that person has the requisite intent.
I spoke with Rep. Gohmert in the hallway outside of the hearing about his assessment of Holder’s answers to his questions.
“Oh, did I get answers?” Gohmert asked. “I didn’t think I got answers. I must have missed them. I heard statements being made after I asked questions but as far as the answers I requested, I didn’t feel I ever got those. If I were an officer in the field and trying to figure out what to do and if I might someday be prosecuted, his answers would scare me to death, because there’s no way to know. He did not give an answer that anyone out in the field could rely on.”
And so goes the destruction of our national intelligence capabilities.