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Default Prevention Act of 2013-- Motion to Proceed--

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded and that I be allowed to speak as if in morning business

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

DETAINING TERRORISTS

Mr. CHAMBLISS. Madam President, in the words of Yogi Berra, ``It's déja 2 vu all over again.'' It seems as though every several months this administration manages to repeat the same disturbing pattern of treating captured foreign terrorists first and foremost as ordinary criminals.

Over the past 10 days we have watched this pattern play out with the capture and all-too-brief interrogation of Abu Anas al-Libi, one of the alleged coconspirators behind the 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed hundreds of innocent people, including 12 Americans.

Instead of sitting in a cell at Guantanamo Bay where he could be fully interrogated for all the intelligence he likely has from his decades-long association with Al Qaeda terrorists, including a long association with Osama bin Laden, al-Libi is now enjoying the protections of our criminal justice system. Yesterday in the Southern District of New York, he had his initial appearance in Federal court, where he entered a plea of not guilty to the pending indictment. He now has a court-appointed lawyer at his disposal.

From all indications, any interrogation of al-Libi has ended, at least for the time being. If past terrorist cases are any guide, it will take weeks or months of plea negotiations and bargaining with this terrorist before we can even think about once again conducting an intelligence interrogation, and we may never have that opportunity again with this now criminal defendant.

We all remember the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 2009 Christmas Day Underwear Bomber, who tried to detonate a suicide bomb in an airplane over the skies of Detroit. Shortly after being taken into custody, Abdulmutallab was read his Miranda warnings, and it took 5 long weeks of plea negotiations before we would again have the opportunity to interrogate him.

Why does this matter? Why do so many of my colleagues and I continually come to this Senate floor to raise this issue? The answer is simple: We have been down this road before of treating terrorists as if they were criminals, sacrificing intelligence for the sake of criminal charges and Miranda rights.

The results on September 11, 2001, were predictable and disastrous. We lost numerous chances to gather intelligence that could have been used to neutralize future threats. We were in a reactive mode, reacting to but not preventing the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, and the 1998 embassy bombings, the same attack involving al-Libi.

It took the reality of the 9/11 attacks to get this trend reversed. Prevention became the norm as criminal and intelligence investigators came together to use all lawful means, including criminal prosecution, to counter the threat of international terrorism.

No one is saying criminal prosecution should not be one tool, but it seems as though now we either just kill terrorists by using drones or give them Miranda warnings. Dead terrorists don't talk and terrorists with lawyers always want something in return if they are going talk. We cannot defeat Al Qaeda, and its growing affiliates, if we don't first have good intelligence on their leadership, intent, networks, and capabilities.

As we have seen in Benghazi, and more recently in Kenya, Al Qaeda and its affiliates continue to carry out terrorist attacks against the United States and its interests. Suspected terrorists were captured in London over the weekend, and we face growing threats in Syria, Libya, and across the globe. Al-Libi, as a long-time member of Al Qaeda and close confident of bin Laden, undoubtedly has valuable intelligence that could be used to foil future plots.

To defeat these terrorists and keep this country and our allies safe demands clear leadership and sound policies from the President. Unfortunately, in this area, we have neither. In the 5 years since this administration summarily dismantled the CIA's detention and interrogation program and ordered the closure of Guantanamo Bay, we still cannot get vital intelligence interrogations prioritized over criminal prosecutions.

Since 2009, we have been asking basic questions of senior administration officials, such as, if we captured Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, where would he go? The only firm answer that has been given is that Guantanamo Bay is off the table.

In the capture of al-Libi, it appears as though this administration has finally settled on its own detention policy. In 2011, al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame was captured while returning to Somalia from Yemen where he was acting as an intermediary between al-Shabaab and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Because of this administration's perennial resistance to placing more detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Warsame was instead held on a U.S. Navy vessel for 2 months and interrogated by the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or the HIG. Predictably, he was then Mirandized and brought to Federal court.

Those who thought the shipboard detention of Warsame was an anomaly, a one-time necessity, have now been proven wrong. Rather than hold detainees at the first-rate facility at Guantanamo Bay that is run by dedicated military personnel who treat the detainees there very humanely, this administration has, with the detention of al-Libi, made it clear that it prefers to use our naval warships as floating prisons. I can't imagine that this is what those who so strongly advocated for the closure of Guantanamo had in mind as a replacement facility.

Over the past week or so some people have raised the point that the restrictions on the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act on the administration's ability to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States for trial justified the administration's unwillingness to place any new terrorists there. That argument simply does not withstand scrutiny in the case of al-Libi.

First, those restrictions applied most recently only to fiscal year 2013 and so are no longer in place. Second, as with Warsame, Abdulmutallab, and other terrorists, we cannot even reach the question of where al-Libi may be tried, whether in a Federal court or in a military commission at Guantanamo Bay, because this administration will not even consider designating him as an enemy combatant for interrogation purposes.

If the administration would be willing--in just one case--to allow a full intelligence interrogation at Guantanamo Bay of a high-valued target without Miranda and without rushing to criminal charges, I would welcome the opportunity to work with this administration to ensure that there are no statutory obstacles to the appropriate future prosecution of a terrorist. If this administration also wants to suggest a better--nonfloating--option to Guantanamo Bay outside the United States, I am happy to listen.

But so far they have been unwilling to do that despite their public claims that all options are on the table when it comes to handling terrorists such as al-Libi. They have been unwilling to make it clear that intelligence collection is the first priority; that long-term detention for intelligence purposes is appropriate and necessary; and that all intelligence value of any suspected terrorist will be exhausted before any discussion of potential charges.

Instead, the short-lived, onship interrogation of Abu Anas al-Libi demonstrates that this administration has once again chosen to gamble with our national security for the sake of safeguarding a criminal prosecution. They are taking the gamble that plea negotiations will be quick and effective and that any intelligence could have been gained in the meantime will not be lost. This is a risk none of us should be willing to take.

It is time that we stop needlessly giving this advantage to terrorists. Our intelligence professionals need real-time, actionable intelligence about Al Qaeda and its activities, and the best place to get that is often from captured terrorists without Miranda warnings, defense attorneys or initial appearances in court.

Getting a conviction and lengthy sentence of an avowed terrorist can be a worthy goal, but ultimately that conviction will mean nothing if Americans are harmed because we threw away the opportunity to get intelligence when we needed it most. It is time to end this dangerous pattern and put all lawful options for handling Al Qaeda terrorists back on the table.

I yield the floor.

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