Obama in May 2009: Al Qaeda Terrorists Are “Prisoners of War”

Patterico’s Pontifications

The sub-head to this post: “Glenn Greenwald is right on this one.” If that doesn’t keep you reading, what will?

I recently posed a question that has been on many Americans’ minds since Barack Obama announced that KSM would be tried in federal court: “If Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Is Acquitted, President Obama, Will You Release Him?”

As I noted, Obama cannot and will not answer this question. Obama must either concede that he will release KSM if he is acquitted, which is political suicide — or concede that KSM’s trial will be a show trial, where the outcome is either predetermined, or does not matter.

Allahpundit has been arguing that the Grand Gesture of granting KSM a trial in federal court is undermined by the naked reality that Obama won’t release KSM regardless of the outcome. In support of his contention, Allahpundit unearthed this prepared statement Barack Obama made in May, which makes for interesting reading in light of the announcement that KSM will be tried in federal court:

Now, let me begin by disposing of one argument as plainly as I can: We are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security, nor will we release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people.

Perhaps even more interesting is his description of what he would do with people who can’t be tried, but are still dangerous:

[W]hen this process is complete, there may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, in some cases because evidence may be tainted, but who nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States. 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.

If they’re “prisoners of war” then why would we try them in civilian courts, Mr. Obama?

To be sure, Obama goes on to mouth generalized platitudes about how this must be done legally, in conjunction with the other branches of government, etc. etc. But what he does not confront, because politically he cannot, is the question posed at the head of this post: what if you can’t continue to hold KSM legally? Will you still hold him?

The article continues here.

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