I knew the truth about this would come out eventually…
Byron York reported on this growing controversy, last week:
It started back in May 2009, when President Obama gave his famous National Archives speech outlining the plan to close the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention center. “Bear in mind the following fact,” Obama said. “Nobody has ever escaped from one of our federal ‘supermax’ prisons, which hold hundreds of convicted terrorists.” Although the president did not put a number on it, various figures, ranging up to 300, have been tossed around in the months since.
To Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, something didn’t sound right. Are there really that many convicted terrorists in U.S. prisons? And are they really comparable with the inmates at Guantanamo?
“It’s a disingenuous argument,” says Kyl. “There haven’t been 300 high-profile, dangerous terrorism cases in the United States — if there were, we would have heard about them.”
A few days after the president’s speech, Kyl sent a letter to Holder asking for the names and crimes of the terrorists held in federal prisons. “It is not my understanding that there are ‘hundreds’ of federal inmates who have been convicted of a level of terrorism comparable to that of Guantanamo detainees,” Kyl wrote.
The senator got no response. Then, on June 17, Holder appeared at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Kyl is a senior member. Kyl asked again. Holder didn’t have the information at hand, so Kyl sent another written request.
And so on and so forth…at some point the number got whittled down to 190.
We’ve said that this bloated number is not an apples-to-apples comparison, because it sweeps in large numbers of defendants whose crimes — such as supporting terrorism through financial or immigration fraud — are not even remotely comparable to those of the terrorists who are held at Guantanamo Bay (like KSM), or of the underwear bomber, who was caught trying to bomb an airplane as an act of war on behalf of al-Qaeda.
Well, according to PolitiFact.com, based on an analysis by New York University’s Center on Law and Security, the real apples-to-apples number of major Islamist terrorists who have been convicted in civilian courts is . . . less than a dozen, over seven years. Evidently it’s not so routine after all.
And, of course, the number of al-Qaeda terrorists detained by the Bush administration at Guantanamo and elsewhere overseas greatly exceeded the number held in the criminal-justice system. That is for good reason — the Bush administration viewed the vast majority of al-Qaeda terrorists as enemies of the United States, not common criminals.