To the American Civil Liberties Union and other far-left pressure groups, no insult could be worse than equating someone to their hated George W. Bush. But that’s just what the ACLU did in a new ad that appeared in Sunday’s New York Times.
Since 9-11, the ACLU has consistently opposed treating captured terrorists any differently from American citizens arrested for trivial crimes. The ad taunts Obama with the question “What will it be, Mr. President?” Specifically, the ACLU wants Obama to refuse to change perhaps the most unpopular decision of his presidency: to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his 9/11 co-conspirators in a civilian trial in New York City.
Rumors have been swirling for days as South Carolina liberal Sen. Lindsey Graham has made public statements that he will support Obama’s efforts to close the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay if the President reverses course on the original decision – claimed to have been made by Attorney General Eric Holder – to try KSM and crew outside the military tribunal system enacted by Congress in 2006 and amended in 2009.
Neither of New York’s Democratic Senators nor New York City’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, support a New York trial (though they did initially). But the Obama administration still says it will take weeks to make a decision.
Obama’s muddle-headed initial decision (the buck stops there even if he wants to try to pin it on Holder) puts him in a political Gordian knot. Now that he’s announced and repeatedly defended civilian trials for terrorists – particularly terrorists of the importance of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – he’s in a no-win situation. If he does the right thing and returns KSM and friends to the military tribunal system where they belong, he’ll earn the ire of the radical left-wing base of the Democratic Party – perhaps the only people in America who still think electing Barack Obama was a good idea. These are the people whom Obama counts on for money and grassroots organizing during campaign season – not that this President is ever out of campaign season. And if he stays with a decision to offer civilian trials to these non-uniformed non-state enemy combatants, he offers Republicans the second biggest campaign issue against him (after his disastrous and unending spending spree.)
Fighting for terrorists’ “rights” is nothing new for the ACLU. The ACLU filed amicus briefs siding with terrorists in no fewer than 6 Supreme Court cases in the last 6 years. (Hamdi, Padilla, Rasul, Qassim, Hamdan, Boumediene.)
The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision in the Boumediene case in 2008, said that detainees at Guantanamo Bay have the right to civilian courts under the writ of habeas corpus, essentially the right of a prisoner to force the government to prove to a court that he is being lawfully detained. The majority consisted of the four “liberal” Justices: Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter, and Stevens, joined by Anthony Kennedy. Unsurprisingly, Justice Scalia wrote a scathing dissent, noting that “how to handle enemy prisoners in this war will ultimately lie with the branch [the judiciary] that knows least about the national security concerns that the subject entails.”
Of course, that’s precisely the outcome the ACLU wants.
Even worse than Boumediene, however, was the decision in Hamdan (2006), in which the same majority — again bolstered by an ACLU brief — said that Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni driver and bodyguard for Osama Bin Laden who was captured in Afghanistan, could not be tried under the then-existing military tribunal system in part because it did not give terrorists Geneva Conventions rights even though the Geneva Conventions were specifically written to cover the treatment of uniformed soldiers of a particular nation who were obeying a command structure and standard “rules of war”.
While none of this is to say that the original structure of President Bush’s order setting up military tribunals was perfect, the ACLU’s mission is not the correction of minor or even major errors: it is the elimination of the system. The group’s ad asking Obama “What will it be?” is part of its ongoing desire to “Close Gitmo & End Military Commissions” – the tag line on the ACLU-owned web page CloseGitmo.com.
Unfortunately, it looks like they have an ally in Lindsey Graham who is buying into the foolish notion that the existence of the Guantanamo prison is an important symbol in terrorist recruitment. There are only two possible roads emerging from that way of thinking: Either believing that setting up another detention facility elsewhere would magically be symbolically different or trusting that the next step after closing Gitmo would be to flush all the terrorists into our civilian system. While Graham is almost certainly thinking the former, his erstwhile friends at the ACLU and Eric Holder’s Department of Justice are thinking the latter. Indeed, the ACLU has already come out against setting up a detention facility in Illinois.
Speaking of the DOJ, Eric Holder has, after several months without responding to questions from Senator Chuck Grassley and many others, announced the names of nine attorneys hired at the DOJ under Holder’s tenure who have “represented or advocated for” terrorists. (To be precise, he announced seven, since the names of two were already known.) And these are not low-level DOJ attorneys. According to a Fox News report on the lawyers, “Principal Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal previously represented a Guantanamo Bay detainee and that National Security Division Attorney Jennifer Daskal previously worked for Human Rights Watch, which advocates on behalf of detainees.”
Squaring the circle, Katyal was the lead attorney in Hamdan and, in 2007, was “honored” with the ACLU’s Roger Baldwin Award.
Although many people rail against what the ACLU “has become”, in fact the organization has, since its founding, been perhaps the most superfically “respectable” far-left organization in America. Its founders were unabashed socialists and Communists, with its key founder, the same Roger Baldwin whose name adorns one of Eric Holder’s right-hand men, saying “I am for socialism, disarmament and, ultimately, for abolishing the state itself as an instrument of violence and compulsion… Communism is the goal.”
While the ACLU’s efforts to dismantle America’s ability to defeat and punish terrorists may not usher in their long-held dream of Communism, on a scale of damage to our national security and sovereignty they are not far behind. Terrorists never had better and more committed attorneys than the ACLU — with the possible exception of some attorneys employed by Barack Obama’s Department of Justice.