Stiffer Potential Penalties Led To Somali Being Brought To U.S. For Trial

Jul 6, 2011

The news that "a Somali citizen captured in April was interrogated aboard a U.S. warship for two months and is now in New York to face terrorism charges" is one of the major stories of the morning. And as The Wall Street Journal writes, the Obama administration's decision to try Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame in a U.S. civilian court "could spark more tension between the White House and Congress over the best way to prosecute suspected terrorists."

On Morning Edition, NPR's Carrie Johnson told host Renee Montagne that administration officials say Warsame has been brought to the U.S. in part because in civilian criminal courts some of the nine charges he faces, including offering support to the al-Shabab terrorist organization in Somalia, carry potential life sentences if convicted. "Some of those charges are not available in the military system," Carrie said.

The Washington Post adds that "the case represents the Obama administration's attempt to find a middle ground between open-ended detentions in secret prisons, as practiced by the George W. Bush administration, and its commitment to try as many terrorism cases as possible in civilian courts."

"In flying Warsame to New York before announcing his capture," the Post adds, "the administration circumvented likely congressional objections to his transfer here. Congress has barred the administration from moving detainees held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States for trial."

But the Journal notes that the move did not, in fact, prevent complaints:

"The administration's decision drew immediate flak. 'As an active member of two terrorist groups that have planned attacks against Americans and our allies, Warsame should be treated as an enemy combatant and tried in a military commission at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, where classified information and the public can be fully protected,' said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican."

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