Dent, a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, raised the issue with DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano yesterday during a Homeland Security budget hearing, particularly in light of a request for $200 million to provide security for the trials.
According to a news release, Dent told her, “Madam Secretary, I cannot support, and in fact I will vehemently oppose any attempt by the Administration to relocate Guantanamo terror detainees to Pennsylvania, whether for detention or prosecution.”
His opposition to civilian terrorist trials on American soil is based on security risks and associated costs. He also believes it is insensitive to the families of victims killed on 9/11. Dent prefers that enemy combatants be tried in military tribunals, at the Guantanamo Bay facility where they are currently housed.
“The fact that the Attorney General didn’t even consult with Homeland Security before opting for a trial venue in New York is especially troubling,” Congressman Dent said. “Coordinating our security efforts here at home was a significant reason we created a Department of Homeland Security in the first place. If DHS isn’t being consulted in such a major security matter, I must wonder what other decisions are being made without careful consideration of homeland security impact.
“The plan to try KSM and the other terrorists in New York is not well considered, and the increasing opposition by lawmakers from both parties underscores that fact. I’m even more concerned that Plan B appears to be a trial in Western Pennsylvania, just miles away from the site of the Flight 93 crash on 9/11. Pennsylvanians have suffered enough and need not relive this terrible tragedy and play host to its mastermind.”
Dent has cosponsored several pieces of legislation to prevent terrorist trials within the United States. He also joined several members of the Pennsylvania delegation in a bipartisan letter to President Obama, opposing terrorist trials in Pennsylvania.
In the meantime, Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan is practicing hard for a stint as a celebrity bartender next week at Louie's Restaurant.