NY Governor at Odds with Obama Over Trials
[Guest post by DRJ]
New York Governor David Paterson has publicly criticized the Obama Administration’s decision to try the 9/11 terrorists in New York, a decision the Administration may have told him about 6 months ago:
“Paterson’s comments break with Democrats, who generally support the President’s decision.
“Our country was attacked on its own soil on September 11, 2001 and New York was very much the epicenter of that attack. Over 2,700 lives were lost,” he said. “It’s very painful. We’re still having trouble getting over it. We still have been unable to rebuild that site and having those terrorists so close to the attack is gonna be an encumbrance on all New Yorkers.”
Paterson also said that the White House warned him six months ago this very situation would happen. He said while he disagrees with the decision, he will do everything in his power to make sure that the state’s Department of Homeland Security will keep New Yorkers as safe as possible.”
Six months ago, in a May 21 national security speech (the same day former Vice President Dick Cheney was already scheduled to speak on national security issues), President Obama addressed how he planned to handle the Guantanamo detainees. He divided them into 5 categories, the first of which were detainees to be tried in United States civilian courts:
“First, whenever feasible, we will try those who have violated American criminal laws in federal courts — courts provided for by the United States Constitution. Some have derided our federal courts as incapable of handling the trials of terrorists. They are wrong. Our courts and our juries, our citizens, are tough enough to convict terrorists. The record makes that clear. Ramzi Yousef tried to blow up the World Trade Center. He was convicted in our courts and is serving a life sentence in U.S. prisons. Zacarias Moussaoui has been identified as the 20th 9/11 hijacker. He was convicted in our courts, and he too is serving a life sentence in prison. If we can try those terrorists in our courts and hold them in our prisons, then we can do the same with detainees from Guantanamo.”
The other categories were:
“Detainees who violate the laws of war and are therefore best tried through military commissions;”
Detainees “who have been ordered released by the courts” and who will be released;
“Detainees who we have determined can be transferred safely to another country;” and
Detainees “who cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people.”
Regarding the last category of detainees, Obama promised they would never be released because they are still at war with America:
“Examples of that threat include people who’ve received extensive explosives training at al Qaeda training camps, or commanded Taliban troops in battle, or expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden, or otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans. These are people who, in effect, remain at war with the United States.
Let me repeat: I am not going to release individuals who endanger the American people. Al Qaeda terrorists and their affiliates are at war with the United States, and those that we capture — like other prisoners of war — must be prevented from attacking us again.”
This sounds like the detainees the Obama Administration plans to try in New York, and it matches the promises Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have made that they will never be released. In other words, it sounds like category 1 “can be prosecuted” detainees have been combined with the category 5 “clear danger” and “still at war with us” detainees who can’t be prosecuted.
One of the problems with Obama’s speeches is that he’s given so many of them and presented so many ideas — sometimes contradictory ideas — that’s it’s hard to keep up with them. In this case, I wonder if Obama intended all along to bring the high-risk detainees to the U.S. and that he told Gov. Paterson as much months ago.