Obama mentioned the conviction of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, but did not mention his sentence. Upon hearing that an admitted al-Qaeda sleeper-cell member who studied chemical weapons is free to leave prison in 9 to 15 years, this “try them all if we can” may not sound so reassuring to the American people.
Beyond that, there was this glaring contradiction in Obama’s speech. He lamented the past decisions — even half-sneering that the previous administration had left “a mess” — but then said that when all the reviews were finished, there would be some prisoners who could not be tried, who could not be shipped to another country, and who could never be released. And they . . . will be detained indefinitely, he admitted. So it is okay to hold some people for the rest of their lives without trial, but only if the president has determined that they are a serious threat to U.S. national security. Thank goodness this administration’s approach is so different from Bush’s!