During a recent television interview with ABC News, Obama said the following:
"[I]t is my firm belief that we can track terrorists, we can crack down on threats against the United States, but we can do so within the constraints of our Constitution."
Then the discussion turned to Gitmo and the recent Supreme Court opinion in Boumediene v. Bush. Obama said, "What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks -- for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center - we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated."
This erroneous answer clearly demonstrates the naivete of a junior Senator. Osama bin Laden is still at large my friend. And the fact is, because we treated the 1993 WTC attack as simply a crime, as opposed to an act of war or a war crime, the individuals were treated as criminals, not enemy combatants/terrorists, as they should have been. Therefore, the individuals were adjudicated in our criminal justice system. What were the ramifications of this? Well, to start, the result was an incredibly slow trial process. All the federal rules of criminal procedure were effectuated. This meant that a vast amount of evidence was tossed due to the strictures of evidence procedure. This meant that those who were caught were not interrogated. This meant that those caught had no incentive to give any information voluntarily. Ultimately, this meant that we did not find out the true mastermind behind the attacks until after 4 years had passed.
We all know now that Osama bin Laden was the brainchild behind the 1993 (and 2001) WTC attacks. Thanks to the slow criminal proceedings, this critical fact was unknown to us until 1997, AFTER Clinton denied Sudan's offer to arrest bin Laden and extradite him to the U.S. rightly saying that we had no grounds to incarcerate him. Yes, you heard it right. Bin Laden at the time was not in hiding. He was openly living in Sudan. The Sudanese government always had an eye on him. President Bashir at the time offered to arrest and extradite him to the U.S. In exchange, we would lift our sanctions. You can read about the offer here.
Again, Clinton was right that we had no grounds to incarcerate him, since, in 1996, we had no idea that bin Laden was the brainchild of the 1993 attacks. But there is no doubt, if Clinton and his national security adviser had treated the 1993 WTC attacks as acts of war and treated those caught accordingly (NOT as criminals, but as foreign enemy combatants and terrorists), we would've found out much earlier about bin Laden, and, when Sudan offered him up on a silver platter, we certainly would've taken it. (But of course, Clinton was extremely preoccupied during this time so we can't really give him the benefit of the doubt that he would have taken bin Laden even if he knew.)
Immediately after Boumediene opinion was issued, Obama made it clear that suspected terrorists must be given the right of habeas corpus and the right to be tried in our civilian courts. This would be a fatal blow to our national security policy and would give a huge advantage to the terrorists caught on the battlefield. Our federal courts will be swamped, and most importantly, this opens the gates to a very slippery slope (as I discuss below). Well, as the adage goes, history is our greatest teacher. Apparently, Obama has not learned enough.