Jake Tapper reports:
Yesterday, despite repeated questioning, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs refused to answer whether the Obama administration will free Ahmed Ghailani if he's found not guilty in court. The Obama administration flew the accused terrorist from Guantanamo to New York yesterday to try him for his alleged role in the 1998 embassy bombings.
"I'm not going to get into hypotheticals about how certain cases may or may not play out," Gibbs said.
The question is important on several levels. If he will be freed, that prompts questions of national security and whether civilian courts are as appropriate as other venues for such trials. If he won't be freed despite being found not guilty that undermines the credibility of the trial.
Today Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, asked, "if we're going to treat this terrorist detainee as a common civilian criminal, what will happen to Ghailani if he's found not guilty? And what will happen to other detainees the administration wants to try in civilian courts if they are found not guilty? Will they be released? If so, where? In New York? In American communities? Or will they be released overseas, where they could return to terror and target American soldiers or innocent civilians?"
McConnell continued: "If Ghailani isn't allowed to go free, will he be detained by the government? If so, where will he be detained? Would the administration detain him on U.S. soil, despite the objections of Congress and the American people?"
McConnell said the questions about Ghailani resemble the questions about Guantanamo in general.
"On the question of Guantanamo, it became increasingly clear over time that the administration announced its plan to close the facility before it actually had a plan," he said. "If the administration has a plan for holding Ghailani if he's found not guilty, then it needs to share that plan with the Congress. These kinds of questions are not insignificant. They involve the safety of the American people."