Holiday in Guantánamo Bay
John Walker Lindh and David Hicks were both young Muslim converts who traveled to Afghanistan to join the Taliban and were captured there in 2001 by American troops. But then their cases diverged in ways that might surprise anyone following the fierce political debate over how the Obama administration should treat terrorism suspects.
Bush administration officials decided to charge Mr. Lindh, an American, in the civilian criminal justice system. He was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison and will not get out until at least 2019.
Mr. Hicks, an Australian, was treated as an enemy combatant the approach now pressed by President Obama’s Republican critics. He went before a military commission at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba and got a seven-year sentence with all but nine months suspended. He is already free.
The Dec. 25 arrest of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner, has reignited an old argument over how to treat terrorism suspects. Republican critics have denounced the decision to charge Mr. Abdulmutallab criminally, read him his rights and give him a lawyer. He was a combatant in Al Qaeda’s war on the United States, critics say, and should have been treated accordingly.
I'll probably want to refer to these cases in the near future: Guantánamo Bay and the detention of terrorism suspects is still an issue.