Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that terrorists should expect to be tried in either civilian courts or military tribunals.
The comment seems to lend some credence to President Donald Trump’s suggestion that a suspect in last week’s attack in New York could be sent to Guantanamo Bay.
Speaking in a roomful of attorneys and law enforcement officials, Sessions took the opportunity to lambast the Diversity Visa program, which enabled suspect Sayfullo Saipov to immigrate to the United States in 2010.
Under the confines of the Diversity Visa program – sometimes termed “the green card lottery” – nationals of certain foreign countries are permitted to immigrate to the United States after submitting themselves to a background check.
The purpose of the program is to enable immigrants from countries not well-represented in the United States to chase the American Dream on their own terms.
Obtaining a diversity visa is time-consuming, and many applicants who are chosen don’t end up being awarded a visa.
Both Sessions and Donald Trump have criticized the program extensively since the attack, with Trump blasting Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for his long-time support of it.
Trump blamed terror attacks on the U.S. justice system, saying that would-be attackers know that American justice is a known “laughingstock” in its handling of terror cases.
Nevertheless, the commander-in-chief quickly backed off from his call to send Saipov to Guantanamo Bay. Writing on Twitter, Trump said he’d love to see the terrorist sent to the Cuban facility, but that, “statistically,” trials in civilian court are less time-consuming than those overseen by military tribunals.
Trump finished the comment with a call for Saipov’s execution, saying he hopes the judiciary “moves fast.”
Would love to send the NYC terrorist to Guantanamo but statistically that process takes much longer than going through the Federal system…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 2, 2017
Sessions nevertheless seemed eager to lend credence to the notion that terrorists could and should be tried as enemy combatants rather than civilians.
“Terrorists should know this: this administration will use all lawful tools at our disposal, including prosecution in Article III courts or at Guantanamo Bay,” Sessions said. “If anyone has any doubt about that, they can ask the more than 500 criminals whom the Department of Justice has convicted of terrorism-related offenses since 9/11. And they can ask the dozens of enemy combatants in Guantanamo Bay.”
He also said that the diversity visa program “makes no sense” and is a threat to the national security.
In line with some Republican legislative proposals, he said immigrants should be chosen through a merit-based system.
Merit-based immigration is “the best way to ensure that the immigration system in America is benefiting America,” Sessions said. “We don’t use random chance in college admissions and we don’t roll a die to hire people. By the same token, a lottery tells us nothing about who would thrive in this country.”
Saipov, apparently inspired by the Islamic State, used a rental truck to plow into a crowd of cyclists and pedestrians in Lower Manhattan.
After crashing into a schoolbus and attempting to flee the scene, Saipov was shot by a nearby New York police officer before being detained.
The terrorist is apparently unrepentant and made requests to display an Islamic State flag in his hospital room.