New York Terrorists Radicalized in Prison

Where demanded by justice and national security, we will seek to transfer some detainees to the same type of facilities in which we hold all manner of dangerous and violent criminals within our borders — namely, highly secure prisons that ensure the public safety.

President Barack Obama, May 21, 2009

Authorities in New York have discovered that the four alleged terrorists arrested last week while planning to blow up a synagogue and shoot down a U.S. military plane were all converted to Islam while in prison.  The four were attendees at a Newburgh, NY, mosque, where Imam Salahuddin Muhammad is the spiritual leader.  Muhammad also serves as a Muslim prison chaplain.

The revelation comes just two days after President Obama uttered the words above, announcing his plan to bring some of the terrorist detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay into the United States to be held in the U.S. prison system.  The president assures that no one has ever escaped from one of the federal Supermax prisons.  But as the case of the New York terror cell demonstrates, escape is not the only issue.

President Obama wants to close Guantanamo to appease America’s allies, indeed to appease America’s enemies, who see the prison as a blot on the human rights record of the United States.  The president believes that Guantanamo has served as a recruiting tool for terrorists around the world, “likely creating more terrorists than it ever detained,” he said.  But if his unprovable assertion is taken at its word, one convenient fact about those new terrorist recruits is that they are not here.

Bringing high-value terrorists into the United States would definitely serve as a recruiting tool for al-Qaeda, whatever the circumstances of their detention.  Even at Supermax, where communication with the outside world is almost certainly very closely monitored if it is even allowed at all, a diabolical terrorist like Khalid Sheikh Mohammad would serve as a symbol for terrorists around the world – a living martyr – inspiring them to acts of vengeance and bloodshed against Americans.  He would also serve as a powerful example for other radicalizing Imams and inmates in the general prison population, potentially turning out a new crop of terrorist wannabes like those four in New York.

The followers of another high-profile terrorist in U.S. custody, the leader of the first World Trade Center bombing conspiracy, Omar Abdel Rahman, routinely make threats against the United States for his continued captivity, and in the event that he dies in custody.  These threats have been idle ones.  But how much harder will al-Qaeda plot and plan aganst America once it has the “justification” of having one of its top lieutenants held on American soil?

If President Obama really believes that committed terrorists like those held at Guantanamo can be brought to the United States at no cost to the overall security of the nation, he is either hopelessly naive or dangerously ignorant.  The New York terror cell was formed in American jails, led by an American Muslim cleric, and, through the leniency of the American justice system, released onto American streets.  It is simply not worth the risk that Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and others held at Guantanamo would be given the chance to radicalize more Muslims in the U.S. prison population, to say nothing of terrorists abroad.  President Obama’s play for adulation from elitists and foes alike could help create the next homegrown terrorist cell.  Maybe next time, it won’t be caught.

Cross posted at Mark on the Right.