Republicans are livid about the way the Obama administration handled the apprehension and arrest of an accused Somali terrorist. But — with one exception — the treatment of Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame was a creditable balancing of national security concerns and due process. President Obama should resist pressure in Congress to make such an approach impossible.
Warsame was arrested April 19 and interrogated on a U.S. Navy ship before being flown to New York. He is accused in a nine-count federal indictment of supplying material support to Al Qaeda in Yemen and the Somali group Shabab.
Republicans have two complaints. They argue that bringing Warsame to the United States violated congressional statements opposing the transfer of suspected terrorists to the United States. The other grievance is that Warsame will be tried in a civilian court. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) combined the two criticisms: "The administration has purposefully imported a terrorist into the U.S. and is providing him all the rights of U.S. citizens in court."
It is easy to dispose of the canard that accused terrorists can't be brought to the United States because their trials would pose a danger to the public. Several terrorist trials, including that of 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, have been held without incident. As for the argument that Warsame shouldn't be given "all the rights of U.S. citizens," it is precisely that feature of civilian trials that demonstrates to the world that the United States is willing to afford due process even to its bitterest enemies.