His plan was to rip apart nightclubs with explosives, unleash a wave of destruction on bridges, and open fire on police officers–all in sunny Florida. This was the murderous intent of Sami Osmakac, 25, an American citizen from the former Yugoslavia who was determined to spill blood, foment destruction, and bring terror to the United States all in the name of Allah. Fortunately, undercover FBI agents thwarted his efforts, making this the 44th foiled terrorist plot against America.
Osmakac’s plot is a not-so-subtle reminder that terrorists lurk not only in the caves of Afghanistan or in the wilds of Africa but also inhabit our backyard, bringing their “holy war” of terror to our shores and our cities. While terrorists continue to conspire to strike the United States, the men and women of our military and intelligence community keep up their fight as well, striving to protect our homeland, identify enemies, gather intelligence, and prevent attacks. Law enforcement is an important component of that effort, but so too is the military’s ability to detain dangerous enemy combatants, as it has at the Guantanamo Bay facility for the past ten years.
Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the arrival of the first “war on terrorism” inmates at the Guantanamo prison, and the milestone was marked by protests crying out for the facility’s closure. Hundreds rallied in Washington yesterday in front of the White House and the Supreme Court, chanting “Ten years too long, ten years too late.”
That was a policy that President Barack Obama, too, embraced and campaigned for, yet in March 2011, he resumed military trials for terrorism suspects in Guantanamo and allowed for prisoners to be detained there if they are a serious threat to U.S. security. In short, Guantanamo remains open — and there’s good reason. The facility continues to serve an important role in the war against terrorists, houses high-value terrorist detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed–the architect of September 11–keeps terrorists off the battlefield, and allows for lawful interrogations.
Former Attorney General Edwin Meese III, the Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow in Public Policy and chairman of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation, explains why the Guantanamo facility is necessary and how it has helped keep America safe over the past decade:
Shortly after September 11, it became evident that this war would be different from all previous wars in the sense that we would need to rely more on tactical and strategic intelligence to thwart and defeat the enemy than traditional military might. To defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates, we needed to know what they knew; one of the obvious ways to learn their intentions was through lawful interrogation at a safe detention facility. Guantanamo, used as a detention facility since the Clinton administration, was just such a place.
There have been 779 detainees at Guantanamo. Today, there are only 171. But over the past decade, we have not only kept dangerous terrorists at Guantanamo and thus away from the battlefield, we have learned a great deal from them during long-term, lawful interrogations. Without a safe, secure detention and interrogation facility, we would not have gained the tactical and strategic intelligence needed to degrade and ultimately defeat the enemy.
Protesters overlook Guantanamo’s value in protecting our homeland and preventing terrorist attacks before they occur. Instead, they argue that Guantanamo’s very existence only serves to incite our enemies to attack us, all while depriving them of their right to trial. As Meese notes, they ignore that there was no Guantanamo detention facility “when terrorists struck the World Trade Center in the 1990s or blew up the U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998 or attacked the USS Cole in 2000.” And they also forget to mention that the detainees are represented by civilian and military counsel, that the conditions there are safe, secure, and humane — in compliance with international law.
While the protests against Guantanamo go on, so does the war against terrorists. Al-Qaeda, its affiliates, and others with the same murderous, anti-American agenda continue to plot the next attack against our homeland. Likewise, the United States must continue to do all that it can — within the rule of law — to prevent those attacks before more lives are lost. That includes the use of Guantanamo’s detention facility unless and until a safe, reasonable alternative is proposed.