By Susan Crabtree - 01/15/10 08:13 PM EST
Republicans are warning against the possibility of trying in D.C. court terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo Bay.
A stream of Republicans voiced their opposition Friday to the notion of holding trials in the nation’s capital after media reports surfaced that the Justice Department is considering trying an alleged al Qaeda leader accused of masterminding the nightclub bombing in Bali that killed more than 200 people in 2002.
“There’s been no decision by the attorney general on whether Mr. Hambali will be tried at a military tribunal or in federal court — much less where he would be prosecuted if he were to go to federal court,” said Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd.
Rep. Pete Hoekstra (Mich.), the top Republican on the House intelligence Committee, accused President Barack Obama of using criminal trials as a “backdoor means to slip terrorist detainees from Guantanamo Bay into the United States.”
"Moving terrorist detainees to within a mile of the White House and blocks from the U.S. Capitol for show trials is a mistake,” he said in a statement. “It only serves to build on the mistakes already made by the president on Guantanamo Bay, including desperately continuing efforts to release terrorist detainees despite considerable evidence that they are returning to the battlefield to fight American forces.”
Hoesktra, who is running for governor, also said there is no security interest served by closing Guantanamo Bay, especially if detainees are moved to a prison facility in Illinois, as the administration plans. He called for comprehensive hearings on Capitol Hill to determine if Obama’s policies reflect the will of the American people.
Obama remains committed to closing the facility, arguing that it has become a recruiting tool for al Qaeda and has tarnished the global reputation of the U.S. legal system. He concedes, however, that he will not meet his deadline this month to close the facility.
Sen. Kit Bond (Mo.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence panel, was more succinct.
“By treating this foreign terrorist as a common criminal he will get exactly what he wants — an international stage to spew his hate-filled extremism and a chance to compromise our sources and methods,” Bond said in a statement.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), the ranking member of the Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee, also jumped into the fray. He wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder expressing his vehement opposition to any plans to try Hambali in D.C.
“I have been receiving classified briefings on terrorist threats to the U.S., including briefings as recently as this week, and my concerns about civilian trials for Guantanamo detainees have only been heightened,” he wrote. “If the American people knew these threats, they would never tolerate the transfer of these detainees to major urban population centers for trial.”