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Moving Guantanamo detainees to prisons on U.S. soil obviously must happen if Guantanamo is to be closed.

The Obama administration has conceded reality in pushing back the deadline for closing the prison in Cuba, but it has taken two important steps toward reaching that goal: announcing some terrorists will be tried in U.S. federal court, and exploring the possibility of using a prison in Illinois for some detainees. Both show confidence in the integrity of the U.S. system of justice and the security of its prisons.

Five Guantanamo "detainees" accused of plotting the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will be prosecuted in U.S. federal court within blocks of where the World Trade Center towers once stood. That by itself will be an important statement that America trusts its justice system to bring to account those accused of plotting that attack.

Moving Guantanamo detainees to prisons on U.S. soil obviously must happen if Guantanamo is to be closed. The hysterical "Not in my backyard!" reaction of some members of Congress is unwarranted. The administration's consideration of a prison in Thomson, Ill., a stone's throw from Iowa, brings the issue close to home. But Iowans should be no more worried than residents of other states where more than 200 convicted terrorists are now being held.

Trying accused terrorists in U.S. courts should not be seen as risky, either. This country rightly takes great pride in the independence of its criminal courts, which have successfully heard the cases of other accused terrorists. To say these five
must be tried in another forum, such as military tribunals, is to suggest they do not deserve fair trials but a process that is sure to lead to their conviction. This "sentence first, verdict afterwards" form of justice lampooned in "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" is precisely what America has condemned in other nations.

The administration, however, plans to move ahead with prosecutions in military courts of five other Guantanamo detainees accused of other terrorist plots or attacks. It's unclear whether this is necessary because evidence against them is based on classified military secrets, or obtained illegally by torture. But there is no reason why military commissions, as structured by Congress, cannot deliver justice in these cases.

The Obama administration has said all along that detainees at Guantanamo fall into distinct categories: Some, who should never have been detained, will be released when a country can be found to take them. Some can be tried in U.S. courts; some in military courts. The remainder who don't fit those categories are unlikely to be tried, yet are considered too dangerous to be released anywhere. Resolving each of these cases will be a challenge, but it must be met. Doing nothing is not an option.

President Barack Obama inherited this problem from the previous administration, which also conceded Guantanamo should close but nonetheless was content to hand it off to its successor.

As long as Guantanamo remains open as a symbol of injustice, it is impossible for America to lecture other nations about human rights.


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