March 8, 2007
WAR: Why Terrorists Are Too Dangerous For U.S. Prisons
Yesterday's news that Congressional Democrats, led by Virginia Congressman Jim Moran, plan to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and bring the terrorists held there to be held in the U.S., is a terrible idea for several reasons, but for one of them, you need look no further than to ask Louis Pepe, the former prison guard at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan who was attacked on November 1, 2000 by Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, a high-ranking Al Qaeda terrorist who was awaiting trial for the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania:
Prosecutors allege that Salim jabbed a sharpened comb, purchased in the MCC commissary, into the eye of corrections officer Louis Pepe. Pepe was blinded in the eye, paralyzed in half of his body, and rendered unable to speak clearly.
The jail no longer sells combs to inmates.
The attack, prosecutors allege, was part of a plan to take guards hostage and escape from the jail.
Pepe's detailed description of the attack paints a horrific, if all too familiar, portrait of the brutality of the jihadists behind bars:
Pepe said he will tell the judge how he properly handcuffed the inmates before they slipped free, blinded him with hot sauce, beat him repeatedly and even tried to rape him before stabbing him to get his keys in a bid to free other suspected terrorists. "Both of them did it, not just one," Pepe said excitedly, his right eye wide open and a piece of gauze resting in the socket where the left eye used to be....Pepe said the attack lasted an hour, rather than the 20 minutes that prison authorities maintain it took for help to arrive from less-isolated parts of Manhattan's Metropolitan Correctional Center.
Pepe described how he resisted throughout the attack, even giving the inmates his house keys when they demanded his prison keys. He said the inmates scrawled the sign of the cross in his blood on his chest before they left him for dead. In the end, Pepe walked out of the cellblock, the sharpened comb still stuck in his eye.
According to a 2004 interview, he has suffered terribly since the attack:
For more than two years, Pepe was hospitalized. He suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed, along with pneumonia, a collapsed lung, seizures, infections, a blood clot and high fevers. He underwent brain surgery and spent three weeks in a coma...
Pepe sleeps on a small donated bed and maneuvers his wheelchair across worn floors. Almost no one visits him. Pepe said his pain, from the collapsed left side of his head to the stroke-damaged legs, is chronic. "Every day it hurts so much that it feels like I'm going to be dead," he said.
It should not surprise us that men who are willing to strap bombs to themselves, fly airplanes into buildings, decapitate women and massacre schoolchildren would be willing to perform extreme acts of cruelty and violence to escape from confinement. At Guantanamo, their prison is on an island, the sea to one side, a fortified border to a brutal and paranoid Communist dictatorship on the other. There's nowhere to go. Put these guys in Jim Moran's district, or your home town - whether in a civilian prison or a military brig - and they will do anything in their power to do to more prison guards what they did to Louis Pepe.
The NYT had an article about the maximum security prison in I think Colorado. Bad place, but, no surprise, suffers from budget cuts, so that's not a great place, even there, to put convicted terrorists.
Nor do I consider it a civil rights issue to have a separate terrorist's prison. We do that now. Maximum security, minimum security, farms, camps. We've already managed to classify prisoners, who by their very nature, have lost much of their constitutional rights.
So looks like we do indeed have to consider yet another prison classification. And a good place. Like underground in Yucca Flats. They get lead lined suits after ten years of good behavior.
The fact remains that Gitmo is just about the perfect spot. It is isolated from the mainland and any attack runs the risk of alienating Shah Castro.
Gitmo's also isolated from due process, humanitarianism, and lawyers.
I find the anecdotal evidence of bad terrorist-prisoners utterly uncompelling. No "regular" prisoners ever attack guards???
It's certainly compelling evidence that Al Quaeda prisoners should not be treated as "run of the mill" convicts. But the prison system already holds a lot of other prisoners who aren't, either.
The rights guaranteed by our Constitution apply to citizens of our country. The do not apply to terrorists who are try to kill us or people who are trying to enter our country illegally.
The do not apply to terrorists who are try to kill us or people who are trying to enter our country illegally.
Yeah. And since they aren't AMERICANS, let's just treat them like animals. Screw western notions of human rights. If a cage is good enough for a stray dog, it's good enough for a foreigner.
And, please remember one thing: they are suspected terrorists. Americans traditionally believed in the concept of innocence until guilt has been proven. Pretty sad to see that we've jettisoned that one because we're scared.
Mike, I don't think there is anyone at Gitmo that fits in the maybe column.
I think this comes under the "common sense" doctrine that we had a few threads back. Based on what the charges are, judges decide all the time on what, if any, bail is to be set. Common sense dictates that you don't put someone accused of shoplifting in with a murder; you don't put a female arrestee in with a rapist, or a suspected rapist. You don't therefore put a suspected terrorist in with a turnstile jumper.
So Irish, I don't think we even have a constitutional issue here. If so, then we've always had it. But then, I'm not a lawyer. I just read the document and figure it reads no more or less what Mr. Madison put in it.
Daryl, I think you would make a good judge.
I doubt it Irish. I would probably care too much who would win. But law is like everything else except maybe physics and medicine. Common sense should rule.
You realize that you're just begging the question here, right?
Prison guards are assaulted by "common" criminals all the time, yet I doubt you could make the argument that "criminals are too dangerous for US prisons," could you?