No one said being President of the United States was going to be easy, but it seems to be getting particularly difficult these days for President Barack Obama as he deals with the dilemma of how to deal with accused terrorists.
Support for his campaign was at least in part due to support for policies that he stood for, which would handle the issue of terrorism in a better way than the Bush administration before him. But now Obama must decide how he will deal with those accused of plotting terrorism. Should these acts be treated as warfare or an ordinary crime?
The question has practical implications for such activities as interrogating alleged terrorists. Should police officers interrogate suspected terrorists when they are apprehended, as happened in the case of the alleged attempt to bomb an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day, and the arrest of the alleged bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Detroit field officers from Custom and Borders protection talked to him for the first 50 minutes of his capture instead of bringing in experts on al-Qaeda in Yemen, who may have been able to gather even more vital intelligence from him.
Mr. Abdulmatallab is still in American hands and he is apparently revealing more intelligence all of the time, according to the White House. But the question of whether to treat terror suspects as criminals or prisoners of war brings up other issues besides interrogation methods, including the forum for a trial. Obama would like to see suspects like Abdulmutallab treated like suspected criminals, not prisoners of war. But many Americans disagree and believe that terror suspects should be subject to the harder rules applied to prisoners of war, as America is currently engaged in a “war on terror.”
Another case to recently draw this issue into the public attention is the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. US Attorney General Eric Holder recently decided to put Mohammed on trial in Manhattan – rather than in Guantanamo Bay or another military base. But fear amongst citizens and US senators from both parties about the possibility of a retaliation attack in New York has led Obama to compromise by switching the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed case to a military tribunal, but leaving Mr Abdulmutallab’s case to be heard by a criminal court.
What do you think is the more appropriate forum in these cases? Is the Obama administration on the right track?