Any conversation eventually turns to the question of “What is the legal definition of terrorism?” Under the Patriot Act, terrorism is defined as:
"(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; (B) appear to be intended— (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States."
Under United States Federal Criminal Code 18 U.S.C. §2331:
“…activities that involve violent… or life-threatening acts… that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State and… appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping…."
In the case of the Underwear Bomber and the Shoe Bomber, both of these terrorists can be charged with and convicted in a Federal Criminal Court of terrorism, among other charges. In the case of the Shoe Bomber, he was convicted and sentenced to life without parole in a Federal Supermax prison. But has this always been the case?
In times of war, the President has the option of transferring terrorists (or enemy combatants) over to the Military for trial by tribunal. The best example of this was by FDR during World War II in which German saboteurs were captured by the FBI, turned over to the Military to be tried as spies (six of the eight were later executed). With President Bush and now President Obama declaring that there is a state of war existing between Al-Qaeda and the United States, this is definitely a possibility.
However, there is a problem: War usually exists between nations, not between a nation and what can be considered a criminal/terrorist organization. Furthermore, a war has not been declared nor ratified by the United States Congress (they’re too busy playing politics with our healthcare). So now we are stuck with whatever legal definitions or policies of the current Administration may have in place for processing and prosecuting Al-Qaeda terrorists.
My personal thoughts through this legal Gordian knot may be simplistic, but I believe is probably the best guideline in light of the opinions that have been expressed by various members of the media, politics, and fellow bloggers. So here goes:
- If a person is arrested on United States soil by representatives of the Justice Department (local, state, and/or Federal) on charges of terrorism, then that person should be processed through the criminal legal system at the Federal level. (The Shoe Bomber was prosecuted and convicted in Federal Court, so there is precedence.) If convicted, then incarceration would take place at an appropriate Federal Penitentiary.
- If a person is captured by the United States Military in an authorized action, then that person should be processed through the Military’s legal system as put forth by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) as an enemy combatant and/or spy. If convicted, then incarceration would take place at an appropriate Military prison.
- Should any person arrested or captured under the above conditions have United States citizenship, then an additional charge of treason should be added to any charges brought against that person.
Under the above guidelines, then terrorists captured overseas by the military would remain in Guantanamo Bay, prosecuted under the UCMJ, and would not be brought the to mainland to a prison only hours away from two of the larger cities in the United States (one of which has a sizable Islamic population).
However, I’m not a politician with an agenda to satisfy his political
Before leaving this topic and inviting your comments, the thought that military prisons, specifically Guantanamo Bay, being used as a recruiting tool for the terrorists makes absolutely no sense to me. What makes the terrorist’s case are incidents like Abu Grahib, which to my knowledge, was an isolated incident. News reports that similar acts took place at Guantanamo Bay have been disproven. Terrorist recruiters will use anything, true or false, to recruit their fighters and homicide bombers to do their bidding, thus the argument of using military prisons to detain terrorists is busted. The question really should be: Are we safer with these dangerous people on a island far away from the mainland, or just as safe with them in a prison just hours away from population centers?
Before you answer that, please consider this paragraph from a previous post:
The American people are now at war, not with a nation, but with an ideology that hates this country and all of it’s citizens. These people live, think, sleep, and eat with the thought of killing us and destroying this country that we live in simply because they do not like us for the freedoms we enjoy (especially the one about freedom to worship). And their reward for doing so is their version of heaven. And knowing all of this, there are those who still believe that these fanatics can be negotiated with.