The FBI’s star interrogator, Ali Soufan, takes on the largely unchallenged Republican talking points about military commissions in an op-ed in today’s New York Times:
As someone who has helped prosecute terrorists in both civilian and military courts — I was a witness for the government in two of the three military commissions convened so far — I think that civilian courts are often the more effective venue. In fact, the argument that our criminal justice system is more than able to handle terrorist cases was bolstered just last week by revelations that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called Christmas bomber, is cooperating with the authorities. Of the three terrorists tried under military commissions since 9/11, two are now free. David Hicks, an Australian who joined Al Qaeda, was sent back to his native country after a plea bargain. Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s former driver and confidante, is a free man in Yemen after all but a few months of his five-and-a-half-year sentence were wiped out by time spent in custody. (The third terrorist, Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, a former Qaeda propaganda chief, was sentenced to life in prison.)
In contrast, almost 200 terrorists have been convicted in federal courts since 9/11. These include not only high-profile terrorists like Zacharias Moussaoui, who was convicted of conspiracy to kill United States citizens as part of the 9/11 attacks, but also many people much lower on the Qaeda pecking order than Mr. Hamdan.
Soufan goes on to review the successful record in prosecuting terrorists in federal criminal courts and exposes the absurdity of the claims surrounding the interrogation of the “panty-bomber” Abdulmutallab. A must read.