May 14, 2009

Candidate Change, Meet President Perseverance

The Wall Street Journal reports that President Obama is considering detaining terror suspects indefinitely.

While this continuation of the previous administration's policy may disappoint those who need to believe that every element of the Bush/Cheney foreign policy was evil or incompetent, it's not terribly surprising if you think about it for a clear-headed minute.

Nearly 3,000 civilians were killed in the 9/11 attacks.

Let's say you're the President and your military and intelligence agencies have managed to track down and capture a number of suspected terrorists. Under no duress, these suspects applaud the 9/11 attacks, claim responsibility (perhaps boastfully rather than truthfully) and pledge themselves to commit their lives to the further killing of Americans by any means possible. And just in case there's any doubt, they're all in favor of the extermination of Israel and maybe the overthrow of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

As President, would you release such suspects to threaten American citizens again? Remember, the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers were the second successful attack in eight years. So what's a President to do? He's sworn to protect, preserve and defend the Constitution, but as Commander in Chief he's also required to protect and defend the citizens. It would be convenient if these suspects could be tried, convicted and thrown in prison for life; but a civilian criminal trial may be a dicey proposition if the specific evidence is primarily confessions that may sound more like boasts.

In an era of rougher justice "...shot while trying to escape" would be one likely end to this awkward predicament. Or perhaps the suspects would be quietly extradited to a country whose legal system makes a specific judicial outcome more certain.

But we live in the current era. Meanwhile President Obama -- unlike candidate Obama -- is privy to the dossiers on these suspects and responsible for the security of the nation. He has a track record of respect for the Constitution and clear-headed, practical thinking. I'm prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt here. From the vantage point of the Oval Office, he seems to be doing the same for his predecessor.