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Wall Street Journal Editorial Board:
A week ago the world learned of another foiled airplane bombing attack by the Yemeni offshoot of al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden's successors are desperate to strike the U.S. again, which isn't news to most Americans but seems to elude some Members of Congress.
As early as Thursday, the House is due to vote on a measure that effectively declares the war on terror over in the U.S. and dismantles the legal architecture that has protected the homeland since 9/11. Any wonder Americans have so little respect for Congress? Or the Constitution has Presidents run the nation's wars?
Adam Smith, a Washington State Democrat, and Michigan Republican and tea partier Justin Amash want to bar the U.S. military from capturing, detaining or interrogating any terrorist of any nationality captured on American soil. Their proposed amendment to next year's defense authorization bill more or less revokes the legal authority granted by Congress a week after 9/11 to fight terrorists on every front.
What this means in practice is that if al Qaeda big Ayman al-Zawahiri and his soldiers are captured overseas (say, in Pakistan), they can be detained by the military, interrogated, and dispatched to wherever the Commander in Chief decides. But if they happen to make it to the U.S., they will have to be handled like your neighborhood burglar. That means being read their Miranda rights, handed over to the local police and put before a civilian judge. The military or CIA couldn't question them to learn about future plots.
This is a bizarre distinction, as if America is not somehow part of the global terror battlefield. Try to explain that to the al Qaeda bombmakers in Yemen, or the residents of downtown Manhattan. The amendment would essentially reward al Qaeda operatives with better treatment for having the wit to get out of their caves and sneak into America to blow up civilians in shopping malls.