Gibson: 'We Have Terrorists in U.S. Prisons, So Why Not the Guys from Guantanamo?'

ABC, CBS and NBC all led Wednesday night with the Senate's overwhelming 90 to 6 bi-partisan vote to withhold funding for the closing of Guantanamo and block any detainees from being moved to the U.S., but ABC anchor Charles Gibson was uniquely flummoxed: “What's the problem here?...We have terrorists in U.S. prisons, so why not the guys from Guantanamo?”

Gibson alluded, in setting up his question to George Stephanopoulos, to Jake Tapper's reference to how “several convicted terrorists are currently in U.S. 'super-max' facilities, including shoe bomber Richard Reid,” and how Dianne Feinstein (one of the six Senators on Obama's side) argued “there is ample evidence that the United States can, and in fact does, hold dangerous convicts securely and without incident.”

But in being confused about the reasoning of the vast majority, Gibson overlooked how Tapper had already answered his question: “FBI Director Robert Mueller today said putting these detainees in U.S. prisons could be dangerous.” Viewers then heard from Mueller: “There is a potential for radicalization in a number of ways, whether it be for gang activity, for terrorist groups, for other extremists.”

Audio: MP3 (10 seconds)

Nonetheless, Gibson wondered on the May 20 World News: “What's the problem here? We have, as Jake mentioned and Senator Feinstein said on the Senate floor, we have terrorists in U.S. prisons, so why not the guys from Guantanamo?”

Stephanopoulos answered with the obvious:

Well, Charlie, I think this is one of the ultimate NIMBY issues. You're right on that point. On the other hand, the Senators have not yet seen a plan and you've got the FBI Director out there saying he's not sure it's going to be safe, either. Senate sources I've talked to today and the administration believe there is a chance they're going to get the Senate to agree to have some detainees come into prisons later this year once the plan by the President is released, but there is no way they're going to approve release of prisoners in the United States.
Gibson then filled-in his naive viewers: “When you say it's a NIMBY problem, you mean not in my back yard. No member of Congress wants these guys transferred to prisons in their districts.”  

Maybe Gibson was just trying to prompt an explanation for the opposition, but I'd bet that resistance to having terrorists housed in domestic prisons was already pretty obvious to most.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center