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'Special Report' Panel Debates Bringing the First Gitmo Detainee to the U.S. to Stand Trial

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from June 9, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETER KING, (R-NY) HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: So I think this is hasty. It is premature, and it raises questions which have not yet been answered. And it shows to me a difference by the administration to the will of Congress, when they see the overwhelming majority of Congress, Democrats and Republicans want all of these proceedings put on hold until an overall procedure has been adopted.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This crime occurred in 1998. I think the notion of getting on with this case is far from hasty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: Well, two sides of the debate about bringing the first Gitmo detainee to the U.S. to stand trial. Ahmed Ghailani, an Al Qaeda terrorist suspect was arraigned on charges he participated in the bombing of the American embassies in Africa in 1998, appeared in federal court in New York. What about this case, and what about Gitmo overall? Let's bring in our panel, Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of "The Weekly Standard," Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles, is this the administration's effort to lay the groundwork for more trials of Gitmo detainees here?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It is. And it's not hasty, Gibbs is right. But it is folly, because what we're doing is we're returning to the 1990's when we treated all of the attacks in Tanzania, on the Cole, and in New York as isolated attacks, small gangs of miscreants that we tried and put the FBI on them.

And we thought we're done with it. And then we got 9/11, and we woke up and realized this is a war. And we had the model of the war for 7.5 years that kept us safe. Now what we are doing is returning to the model of law enforcement. And the problem is this — Obama wants to pretend it's not a war. He won't use the words "War on Terror." He didn't use the word "terrorism" at all in the huge speech he gave in Cairo, 6,000 words, and he will never speak of Jihadism as a movement or enemy. It is all about these criminals. The problem is once you take away the model of war, you can have a Ghailani or others who get tried in court in New York. But there is a large cohort of bad guys in Guantanamo, starting with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed that you cannot try in the civilian court and you cannot release, that you are going to have to hold.

And holding without — detaining without trial is done in wartime for a prisoner of war. If we are not at war, how do you explain that?

BAIER: Juan?

JUAN WILLIAMS, NEWS ANALYST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think contrary to what Charles just said, this is a pre-9/11 event. And all you're seeing is an attempt to put this man on trial, and it's been pending for far too long.

The families of the victims, remember, 200-plus Americans were killed in these attacks, want this man brought to trial, and have been pushing the president to do so. Lindsay Graham, Joe Lieberman, who have been absolutely diligent on this issue, point out again that President Obama wants to use military tribunals. He does not want to use the normal criminal justice system as Charles suggests. He wants military tribunals. And the reason that Graham and Lieberman are supportive of bringing this man over and trying him is because it is not part of the 9/11 sect, and it does not suggest that this is a precedent that would do away with the use of the military tribunals.

BAIER: Fred?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, look, by the way, well, the press secretary at the White House said, this goes back to 1998. The guy wasn't arrested until 2004 and didn't get to Guantanamo until 2006.

And why not wait a couple of months until the Obama administration has a plan, if they can ever come up with one, to deal with all the prisoners at Guantanamo. Why send this guy now?

I don't think you have to be conspiratorial, Juan, to realize what they are doing. They are laying the groundwork, legitimizing bringing prisoners from Guantanamo, Al Qaeda — this guy was in Al Qaeda — bringing him — it's all a part of the same war against the United States, bringing him to the United States to be tried here.

You can have all kinds of problems with the trial. You did early with the 1993 World Trade Center bombings where intelligence information came out that helped Al Qaeda. If you don't allow it in the court, the guy may get out.

I think it hurts either way. If he is convicted and gets some long sentence, and, oh, we can bring all kinds of these people from Gitmo. If he's not convicted, if he is acquitted or somehow the charges are dropped, then what do you do? Do you let him go? Do you just release him and let him walk out of the courthouse, this guy? I mean, I think it's bad.

And look, why are they doing this? It's all because President Obama made a big mistake and announced that Guantanamo had to be closed next January 22.

BAIER: Charles, we learned today that the administration is discussing with several small pacific nations, including Palau — I had never even heard of Palau — 500 miles outside the Philippines, to put the Chinese Muslims, the Uighurs there instead of in the U.S.

Is this what we have been talking about, another Gitmo?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, look, St. Helena is under repair, so that's why he's not going to end up there.

It's bizarre. The idea is if they are guilty, they ought to stay in detention. If not, you let them go.

But sticking them on islands, as you say, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean — imagine if the government decides these guys ought to go free. Are they going to be kept in shackles on this island? Are they going to be in a — fenced-in? Are they going to wear a bracelet on their ankles?

It is hard to understand what kind of limbo these guys are going to be in. And it's only because, as Fred indicated, it is a promise on Gitmo, which makes no sense.

BAIER: And, quickly, Juan, from the left, Senator Russ Feingold is already speaking out saying indefinite detention for anybody is something that this administration should not be for.

WILLIAMS: That's the pressure from the left, and I think that's the real fight. And I think lots of pressure is coming, I might also add, not just from the left, but from Democrats, centrist Democrats who don't want those prisoners brought on to American soil and think that it would be damaging to Democratic chances going forward.

One last thought here, the big problem is, I think Fred identified it properly, President Obama says he is going to close Gitmo by January 2010, next year, and he doesn't have a plan. So he's wresting with it. And I think that's legitimate.

BARNES: All he has to do is say we don't have a plan, and I'm not going to let prisoners out, I'm not going to send them anywhere. Until we do, if that goes after January 22, OK.

BAIER: You can get a great deal on Chrysler tonight — the end of the road for dealerships all over the country. The panel will ease down that road, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROB ISAKSON, VICE PRESIDENT AND GENERAL MANAGER, ISAKSON MOTORS: Right now, we're in the top five in our district of 22. For the month, we're number one right now for the first nine days. And last month we were seven out of 22.

SEN. JOHN TESTER, (D) MONTANA: For dealerships making money, I don't see any criteria for shutting them down.

You shut down some of these small dealerships in small of these small towns that they are making money, that G.M. is making money off of, it will have an incredible impact on the economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Two issues here — the closing down of dealerships, that some of them had been making a lot of money, and, secondly, the Chrysler deal is still in limbo because the Supreme Court has stepped in.

We're back with the panel. Juan, let's start with you. These dealerships, they have a story to tell, and Capitol Hill is listening.

WILLIAMS: Boy, are they ever listening. This has been going on since last week. And you see local congressmen getting involved.

And it is one of these things. Auto plants get closed, and everyone says, oh, the economy is changing, and there are arguments about whether we should bailout the big auto companies.

But when they close, a car dealership, gosh, everyone in the neighborhood says what's going on? You're closing my auto dealership, and that guy used to give money to the local little league team, and I know that guy and he has a big American flag that he flies over the dealership. He has been around for years. His grandfather owned that dealership.

I tell you, there is a wave of resistance. You just saw it from John Tester.

But imagine, there are also Republicans who are raising the question, is the Obama administration punishing dealerships that are in mostly Republican areas? So it becomes highly political at this moment.

And then throw in the Supreme Court ruling yesterday that stopped the sale of Chrysler at the moment because some Indiana pension fund said they're getting short shrift in terms of the amount of money that they would get in the deal, while unsecured lenders are getting more payment, and specific to unions.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: That case, I think it's really interesting.

The Supreme Court always reads the election returns. So it's unlikely to stop the Chrysler deal because of the suit that Juan is talking about.

But I think it should, or at least it ought to hear it. And the reason is that — it's not because of the government taking over auto companies. The real issue here is the lawlessness with which the government has acted in taking over these companies.

And the complaint of the teachers' retirement fund is that it held bonds in Chrysler. It was a senior creditor, but it got less than unsecured UAW retirement funds because UAW is an ally of the Obama administration.

Now, that's a serious issue. It undoes decades of practice in bankruptcy law. And it's scaring everybody in finance and in industry who worries about the sanctity of contract.

I think that's really at issue here, and that's why the court ought to hear it, although, I again, I suspect it will not, because it doesn't want to stand in the way of a popular president on a juggernaut in the takeover of these auto companies.

BAIER: Fred?

BARNES: Well, the dealership is such a big issue. You remember that — all politics is local. That is local politics, so you get John Tester and others up in arms.

You know, you can imagine — it's a long shot, Charles, but you can imagine five justices which it would take to hear the Chrysler case — Thomas, Scalia, Roberts, Alito, and with Ginsburg, who —

BAIER: Issued the stay.

BARNES: — ordered to stay, but partly because the case is in her jurisdiction.

But there is another case as well, and there is another issue as well, and that is what the administration is empowered to do, not just in screwing, basically, the secured bond creditors and favoring the group that poured money into the Obama campaign. I mean, I think there's a conflict of interest here. That's, of course, the United Auto Workers.

But what about the administration? They are getting more TARP money back from the banks. Can they now, without checking with Congress, getting authority, send that now on to Chrysler and G.M. again? I don't know. It's a legitimate issue about the power of the executive branch and this White House, in particular, in both of these issues.

BAIER: So do you think the Supreme Court takes this up?

BARNES: I think they probably don't. But I agree with Charles that they absolutely should. And they can do it on an emergency basis. And we know now that that June 15 deadline set by Fiat, they are saying they have lifted that.

KRAUTHAMMER: And the reason that the courts are asked to step in is because you would expect the Congress, which is normally jealous of its powers, would act to stop the administration from acting wantonly and using the TARP as essentially a slush fund.

But it's not. It's not only that the administration is lawless, it's that the Congress is spineless. And that's why the only backstop is the Supreme Court, which I suspect is not going to do anything.

BAIER: And the dealerships — quickly, Juan — does it build on Capitol Hill?

WILLIAMS: Yes, I think it does, because, as Fred said, all politics are local.

But let's not forget here that what the administration is trying to save is jobs. And that seems to be at odds with what the court, I think might rule.

BARNES: You will lose jobs by closing down all these dealerships. But then they're all Republicans, right?

WILLIAMS: Oh, stop.

BAIER: We'll leave it there.

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