THE TERRORISTS WILL NOW CHEER
By CHARLES HURT in Washington and CARL CAMPANILE in NY
New York Post
January 23, 2009
President Obama yesterday issued orders to close the controversial Guantanamo Bay military prison that houses the plotters of the Sept. 11 attacks - sparking outrage from families of World Trade Center victims.
Obama wants to shut the prison camp in Cuba within a year and require the closing of any remaining secret CIA "black site" prisons abroad. He has also banned harsh interrogation techniques, such as water boarding, that critics claim constitute torture.
"A new era of American leadership is at hand," the president said.
But families of the 9/11 fallen slammed Obama for going soft on terrorists.
"The terrorists are going to be cheering," said FDNY Fire Lt. Jim McAffrey, whose brother-in-law, FDNY Battalion Chief Orio Palmer, was killed at Ground Zero.
"It's the wrong move. It sends a chilling message to people who are trying to fight the war on terror. These people are trying to kill us. Down the road, [Obama] may regret doing this."
Obama said he was certain the nation's security is strengthened when the United States adheres to "core standards of conduct."
"We think that it is precisely our ideals that give us the strength and the moral high ground to be able to effectively deal with the unthinking violence that we see emanating from terrorist organizations around the world," he said.
Retired FDNY Deputy Chief Jim Riches - whose firefighter son, Jimmy, died in the trade center's north tower - said he had just visited Guantanamo, and the detainees "get better medical treatment than the veterans."
"The families are going to suffer more. Justice delayed is justice denied," Riches said.
Rep. Peter King of Long Island, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, said Obama's actions embrace a soft-on-terror agenda.
"This is madness. These are hardened terrorists who should not be detained in the US," King said. "We live in a dangerous world. Guantanamo is a necessary evil."
Both McAffrey and King said they believed waterboarding is acceptable.
"On September 10, would you have put Mohamed Atta's head under water for 20 seconds to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks?" asked King, referring to the lead 9/11 hijacker.
Obama's moves mean the suspension of military war-crime trials of terrorists - raising questions over how and where they will now be prosecuted.
The president does not know yet what to do with the 245 suspected terrorists - including admitted 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed - when Gitmo closes.
Legal experts have said it may be difficult to bring the detainees to trial in civilian courts because the evidence against them was sometimes obtained through methods that could be viewed as torture.
Under Obama's order, the feds would review whether detainees could be released or transferred to another country or to a US prison.
But it's unclear how and where the defendants would be tried - in federal court, military court or a special tribunal. Obama's order suggests military or civilian courts, but does not rule out a revised wartime commission.
Marine Maj. Jeff Groharing, a prosecutor in the lead trial of Sept. 11 plotters, said he wanted trials of terror suspects to resume at Guantanamo.
"There are victims out there that still need justice to be done. I don't think it would be fair to them to not see the cases through," he said.
An official monitoring Guantanamo has accused the military of torturing one 9/11 suspect, and many others claim they've been tortured.
Military law permits coerced evidence but not torture, while federal courts bar the use of all coerced evidence.
The new president called his actions just.
"The message that we are sending the world is that the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism, and we are going to do so vigilantly and we are going to do so effectively and we are going to do so in a manner that is consistent with our values and ideals," Obama said.
He did leave some wiggle room for harsher grilling techniques by calling for a review of the Army Field Manual's interrogation guidelines.