A military review board on March 5, 2014 decided that Abdel Malik Ahmed Abdel Wahab Al Rahabi should remain indefinitely in U.S. custody in the prison at Guantánamo Bay. Al Rahabi, a Yemeni citizen, was one of the first detainees incarcerated at Guantánamo, arriving there in 2002.
The review board decided that if returned to Yemen, al Rahabi, who served as a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden and who has ties with the current al Qaeda leaders, would pose a threat to U.S. safety. I'm willing to accept that conclusion as a realistic assessment. In my experience, most of our military and national security personnel are dedicated professionals who attempt to perform their jobs to the best of their ability.
So why bring al Rahabi to the United States?
We owe it to ourselves to give him his day in court. I believe in our judicial system. Our courts have tried and convicted over 200 terrorists since 9/11. I believe in our law enforcement agencies (the FBI, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, etc.). They can reliably ensure that al Rahabi remains securely in federal custody. I believe in the American people. Most of us do not panic at the mere mention of terrorism; most of us share my confidence in our judiciary and law enforcement. A terrorist incarcerated in a federal maximum security prison poses no more threat to any of us than the same prisoner incarcerated at Guantánamo poses. If you doubt that, then let's create new federal prisons aboard military bases especially for accused and convicted terrorists.
When we refuse to give someone like al Rahabi his day in court, we communicate in no uncertain terms that not only do we not trust our judiciary and law enforcement agencies, we also do not believe in our Constitution and the legal system that it establishes. One of the reasons that the colonists rebelled against Great Britain was that the colonists believed nobody should be arrested without knowing why, without a right to a speedy trial by jury, and without rights that included access to an attorney and not having to incriminate one's self.
I, for one, still want to live in a country that prizes those rights. We have a sad legacy of prisoners held at Guantánamo who did not receive those rights. We as a nation hold them at Guantánamo precisely because we do not want to give them their rights. National security authorities believe that probably a quarter of the persons held at Guantánamo are innocent of any major crime, wrongly caught up in the war on terror launched in the panicked post-9/11 atmosphere.
For prisoners against whom the government can make a reasonable case, let's bring them to the U.S. and try them in our courts. We have the best justice system in the world. Keeping a prisoner at Guantánamo costs the taxpayer $800,000 per year, a number that will only increase, e.g., the prison there now needs expensive, major renovations.
Finally, al Rahabi may be a terrorist who wants me dead. However, I am a Christian and therefore am committed to treating him as a human being who should have the same rights that I enjoy. Let's give him justice; it's the right thing to do.