Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asks what happens if Ahmed Ghaliani is found not guilty and…wait, let me clear this up a bit. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asks what happens if evil terrorist and guilty-as-sin because he’s obviously a terrorist (and, oh, evil) Ahmed Ghaliani is found not guilty and is told by the federal government to rent out your garage apartment from the Twitter or Craigslist.
Today Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, asked, “if we’re going to treat this terrorist detainee as a common civilian criminal, what will happen to Ghailani if he’s found not guilty? And what will happen to other detainees the administration wants to try in civilian courts if they are found not guilty? Will they be released? If so, where? In New York? In American communities? Or will they be released overseas, where they could return to terror and target American soldiers or innocent civilians?”
McConnell continued: “If Ghailani isn’t allowed to go free, will he be detained by the government? If so, where will he be detained? Would the administration detain him on U.S. soil, despite the objections of Congress and the American people?”
See, this sets up the fundamental disconnect between what our system of fighting terrorism is and what it should be. McConnell’s presumption (and tacit admission) is that we have people in custody despite not being able to prove that they’re actually terrorists, connected to terrorism or even able to locate Israel on a map of the world. The worry is that through some clever lawyer pointing this out, the non-terrorist (who actually is a terrorist, because, hey, he was in prison!) will be released onto our city streets, free to wander this alien land and eventually inspire some Neo-Nazis to stop their Eighty-Eight Quilts for Eighty-Eight Aryans craft fair and go try to blow something up.
The end goal of the closing of Gitmo should be that we arrest, try and punish terrorists in a way that ensures they are not only kept from harming others, but are also thoroughly and humanely interrogated for any other information they have. If and when we arrest someone who’s not actually a terrorist, they are again treated in a way that is as human as possible so that they don’t go back to their home countries and start pursuing a radicalized path, which is where a not-insubstantial number of “recidivist” terrorists come from in the first place. The problem with the current system is that it treats anyone who is accused of terrorist activity as if they’ve already been tried and convicted of that activity just by virtue of accusation.
There’s the obvious question of whether McConnell will be asking these questions when any of the right-wing domestic terrorists of the past fortnight or so go on trial, but not only do we know the answer to that, we’ve also all accepted it as an internalized risk of the justice system. At least for white people.