A Week in Politics

November 8, 2010

"Congress"As the dust settles on the midterm election we thought it might be useful to take a moment to assess what implications the results have for the Counter Terror with Justice (CTWJ) campaign.

Economic woes dominated election stump speeches and national security issues were surprisingly little addressed by either main party. However, the changed political landscape is going to have a real impact on our issues.

The likely accession of Lamar Smith (R-Texas) to the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee is going to present further obstacles to the administration’s attempts to close the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. Smith took the opportunity in his first press statement after the election to pledge that keeping the prison open for business would be one of his top priorities for the coming session.

Republican staffers on the Senate Select Intelligence Committee have already begun to investigate the security regimes under which former GTMO detainees cleared for release are currently living in the European countries that stepped forward to offer them sanctuary. We can expect to see security concerns raised in an effort to block the further release of cleared detainees.

Another troubling outcome of the vote was the election to the House of Representatives of Allen West (R-Florida) whose war record in Iraq one would have thought would have disqualified him from office. In August 2003 Lt. Col. West stood by and watched his men beat up an Iraqi suspect, Yehiya Kadoori Hamoodi. He then threatened to kill Hamoodi, drawing his own handgun and discharging it next to the prisoner’s head.

West pleaded guilty to misconduct and assault in a military Article 32 hearing, was  fined $5,000, and resigned from the service. Having first told investigators that he gained vital intelligence from his actions, West later changed his tune telling the New York Times admitting that he could have been wrong about Mr. Hamoodi’s links to insurgents.

George Washington must be spinning in his grave.

New York Democrat Chuck Schumer has emerged from the election with his position in the Senate greatly enhanced as a potential successor to Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid. Senator Schumer has opposed the Attorney General’s plan to try the 9/11 suspects in federal court in New York City. We can expect his voice to carry even more weight with the administration post-election.

In contrast, the departure of Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold from the Senate is a loss for supporters of civil liberties. Feingold sat on the Senate Judiciary, Foreign Affairs and Intelligence Committees and had been an important ally for many aspects of the CTWJ campaign.

Events in Yemen and Greece over the past week remind us that the threat from terrorism remains as real as ever.  They also remind us that terrorism comes in many shapes and sizes. The group behind a series of attempted mail bombings of international targets in Athens is a European anarchist cell calling itself The Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire.

The Global War on Terror is nearing the end of its first decade. Al Qaeda central may be a much-diminished force but its leaders remain at large and it has spawned a slew of dedicated imitators. We have very little to show for Dick Cheney’s embrace of the ‘dark side’, indeed in many respects we face a much harder threat to contain than we did before. We are not going to make our society any safer until we reclaim the moral high ground.

The mid-term elections do represent a setback for those fighting to restore America’s honor and its cherished values of liberty and individual freedom. However, they also represent a rebuke. We have failed to effectively make the case to the American people that we need to reject the failed security policies of the previous administration and the hybrid compromises of its successor.

The ship of state will not right itself. We have roll up our sleeves and get back to work. The next major battleground will be the decision about the venue in which to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and the other 9/11 suspects. If we want to see that trial take place in a real courtroom, and see real justice done for the victims of  9/11, we can’t stay home moaning about the election. We need to get out and take action.