Mike Rogers: Sulaiman Abu Ghaith Is a National Security Issue, Not a Common Criminal
Terrorists like Sulaiman Abu Ghaith shouldn't be tried like common criminals
March 12, 2013
The extradition of senior al Qaeida member and spokesman, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, to the United States to stand trial in criminal court underscores a dangerous desire to return to treating al Qaeda as a law enforcement problem, not a national security issue. Throughout the 1990s, America responded to al Qaeda by treating its members like common criminals. The 9/11 attacks showed the devastating results of that approach. Treating those who wage war on America like common criminals emboldens the enemy and ignores the scope of the strategic threat we face.
The United States remains at war. Al Qaeda continues to plan attacks against U.S. interests around the world. U.S. military and intelligence services still face that enemy every day on the battlefield. Our brave men and women in uniform know we remain at war, and so should our policymakers.
Recognizing we are at war means understanding it is dangerous and ineffective to bring the enemy to the United States, to grant him the same rights as U.S. citizens standing trial, including Miranda rights, the right to remain silent, and the right to a U.S. taxpayer funded attorney. Recognizing we are at war means knowing that the enemy holds information we need to stop future attacks.
As his indictment states, Abu Ghaith maintained a close relationship with Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda's former leader, and was present in Iran since 2002. His capture by U.S. officials was an opportunity for us to learn more about al Qaeda, its senior leadership, its connections to Iranian officials, and its current and future operations, including potential plans against the United States.
Regrettably, given the length of time Abu Ghaith was in U.S. custody prior to his appearance in court, our intelligence officials likely did not have the needed time to question him seriously about any of these connections or plans. The ardent wish by some to see al Qaeda members stand trial in the United States has left us blinded to the information he may hold.
Some may pretend the war with al Qaeda is over. They are wrong. History has shown, and our military leaders know, that the key to winning any war is the will to defeat the enemy. Winning the war against al Qaeda requires maintaining the will to defeat them. That in turn requires that we continue to treat the enemy as the enemy—not as common criminals.