This year our nation will sadly mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that murdered nearly 3,000 Americans. Despite pledges from our leaders to seek swift and certain punishment, the wheels of justice have turned slowly. No one to this day has been charged with these mass killings.
Part of the problem lies in the Obama administration's inability to come to terms with the nature of the war we are fighting. After campaigning to close the Guantanamo detention center, President Barack Obama finally took a step in the right direction by issuing an executive order to restart military trials there.
I strongly urge the White House to go even further and declare its intention to hold a military trial for the self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), along with his major co-conspirators. It was a mistake to think he could be tried in civilian courts as an ordinary criminal. A public backlash prevented that trial from going forward. It's time to get it back on track this time, in a military setting.
Earlier this week I visited the Guantanamo Bay detention center. While there are no easy answers when it comes to dealing with terrorists captured on the battlefield, I am more convinced than ever that the Guantanamo facility should remain open. Based on the criticisms I had heard, I was prepared for the horrors of Devil's Island. But I was impressed by the naval base's pristine condition, ample amenities and overall high quality. The military personnel are highly trained and the detainees are in good condition. They play soccer, pray and attend classes. Detainees have access to the same health facilities as our military personnel. There's an $18.2 million prison hospital where detainees are treated for illnesses and injuries many sustained on the soccer field.
Most importantly, the detention facility includes a new, state-of-the-art courthouse complex that was uniquely built for military tribunals and highly-classified proceedings. This courtroom was designed by national security experts for the trials of dangerous terrorist suspects, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Some people may argue the Guantanamo Bay courtroom should remain unused. I disagree. Instead of sitting empty, this courtroom should be used as a setting to seek the "swift and certain justice" that was promised to the families of 9/11 victims.
Shutting down Guantanamo means we would either absorb terrorists into the U.S. penal system, send them to other countries or release them. None of these is an acceptable option.
Transporting terrorists to U.S. prisons would not only increase threats to our homeland, but it would cost billions in taxpayer dollars. Terrorists purposely targeted Americans on Sept. 11, 2001, and we -- not other countries -- should administer the justice they deserve.
Finally, simply releasing these men is unthinkable given that nearly 25 percent of Guantanamo detainees already released have re-joined terrorist organizations. As our military and civilian forces risk their lives every day on the battlefield, we cannot allow captured terrorists to return home to plot future attacks and wage war against us.
I am committed to working with my colleagues and the president on a realistic plan to handle Guantanamo detainees. I recently co-sponsored legislation with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) that would keep the Guantanamo facility open, impose restrictions on transferring detainees to foreign countries and push for military commissions to decide the fate of detainees.
Now the Obama administration has everything it needs to bring "certain justice" to those responsible for the attacks on 9/11 -- even if it has not been "swift."
Ten years is way too long for action. The thousands of victims, their families, and the American people are still waiting.