Last Monday, a federal judge ordered al Qaeda member Mohamedou Slahi released from Guantanamo Bay. In response, Liz Cheney's fear-mongering ultra-conservative group, Keep America Safe, tweeted "This is BAD." Liz is right. This is bad, and it's her father's fault.
Slahi was cited in the 9/11 Commission Report as a key recruiter for al Qaeda, suspected of recruiting Mohammad Atta and other members of the Hamburg cell involved in the 9/11 attacks. He is a dangerous man who needs to be in custody and should face justice for his role in attacking the United States. Unfortunately, the decisions made by the Bush administration have delayed punishing Slahi for more than seven years. While he should already have been sentenced to life in prison or death for his role in killing 3,000 Americans, Slahi sits in Guantanamo, where he tends to his tomato farm.
Conservatives will argue that the judge's order to release Slahi is somehow the fault of the Obama administration or 'liberal judges,' but three specific Bush administration decisions--pushed by Dick Cheney and now defended by Liz--are responsible for the order to release Slahi: the decision to allow torture of suspected terrorists, the creation of the Guantanamo Bay to detain them, and the failed attempt to use military commissions to prosecute them. Together, these decisions created a system incapable of punishing Slahi, and they now undermine our ability to detain a very dangerous man.
The Bush administration authorized torture. Because of that, we do not have enough admissible evidence to try Slahi in federal court or even in a military tribunal. In 2003 and 2004, military prosecutors wanted to seek the death penalty against Slahi. However, the Marine Corps prosecutor assigned to the case refused to bring charges against him, because, even in a military tribunal, evidence gained from torture is inadmissible.
Secondly, the Bush administration opened the Guantanamo Bay facility to keep detainees out of the reach of the US judicial system. However, federal courts have repeatedly ruled on cases involving Guantanamo detainees. We get all of the negatives of Gitmo--propaganda for terrorists and anger from our allies--without any of the supposed benefits of keeping detainees out of the court system.
Finally, the Bush administration decided it would try all the detainees at Guantanamo through a military tribunal process. However, the Supreme Court, with a Republican appointed majority, has twice rejected systems created by the Bush administration. At this point, we do not have a military tribunal system in place that we are confident would stand up to a legal challenge, meaning the perpetrators of 9/11 and other terrorists have yet to face justice.
While there is no chance Slahi will be released in the near future (the Obama administration still has several levels of appeals left while they try to determine how to legally hold him), the Bush administration's decisions have left our long term ability to hold him in doubt.
Conservatives have already taken the opportunity to attack the Obama administration over this ruling, but their anger is directed in the wrong direction. Rather than attack the current administration, they should ask Liz Cheney to give her father a call and ask why his policies have made America less safe and denied justice for the victims of 9/11 and their families.