Conservatives are up in arms about the possible release of Guantanamo detainees. You'd think, listening to them, you're going to be brushing up against Bin Laden at the local Starbucks while ordering your morning Iced Caramel Macchiato Venti. They've even gone so far as to try to pass the ridiculously named "Keep Terrorists Out of America Act," and the even more ludicrous "No Welfare for Terrorists Act." I'd like to propose the "No Stupid Names For Acts Act."
But there is movement toward settling the issue of how detainees are to be handled, and there is a good reason believe America will be safe not only physically, but constitutionally. Military commissions will be re-established, but this time they'll give legal protections to detainees, which means the ability to have more admissible evidence than under the old system. Because of harsh interrogation techniques, there was a hesitancy to prosecute, fearing that evidence could not stand up in court. Now, things are changing in line with our Constitution.
I know that some conservatives (the ones who forget to read the Constitution) believe that it's alright to lock people up for years with no due process, no right to an attorney, and no charges brought. But the Constitution pertains to "persons", not just citizens, and when you are in U.S. custody, what our Constitution says matters, even if you're tucked away in Cuba.
New rules would disallow evidence obtained using coercive techniques, make it more difficult to use hearsay testimony, and give detainees more freedom to select attorneys.
The current suspension of military commissions expires May 20, and the Obama administration will seek a 90 day extension. Commissions will then take place on military bases on U.S. soil. But groups like the ACLU will look to litigate this, believing that justice can be obtained in federal courts. The government will argue it wants the right at admit hearsay evidence at trials, which gives it more leverage that it would have in a U.S. court.
While Republicans are going to claim that resettling some detainees in the United States puts terrorists on the streets, they are forgetting that this would only happen if they are declared innocent after a trial. Let's not forget that Lawrence B. Wilkerson (R), former chief of staff to Colin Powell, says many of the detainees at Gitmo are innocent, having been rounded up with no meaningful attempt to determine "who we were transporting who we were transporting to Cuba for detention and interrogation."
There is another reason for the United States to accept detainees here if they are determined to be innocent after a trial: We want other countries to take them as well. And we can't be a beacon of freedom unless we're willing to do what we're asking our friends and allies to do. If we really want the terrorists to win, all we have to do is be more like them.