Often, the numbers are attached to one of two positions: You’ve got the Obama administration arguing that many of the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, ought to be tried in federal courts on American soil; while Republicans generally argue that the detainees ought to be treated as enemy combatants and tried in military courts in Guantanamo.
The debate has put one statistic front and center: Just how many terrorists have been tried and successfully convicted in federal courts in recent years? It’s a more difficult number to track than you might think.
Consider these citations:
• “We know that we can prosecute terrorists in our federal courts safely and securely because we have been doing so for years. There are more than 300 convicted international and domestic terrorists currently in Bureau of Prisons custody including those responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the attacks on embassies in Africa.” –Attorney General Eric Holder before a Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 18, 2009.
• “Since the Sept. 11 attacks, and as of Aug. 31, 2006, 288 defendants have been convicted or have pleaded guilty in terrorism or terrorism-related cases arising from investigations conducted primarily after Sept. 11, 2001.” — a September 2006 Justice Department “Terror Fact Sheet.”
• “Since 9/11, more than two dozen terrorists and supporters have been convicted in the United States of terrorism-related crimes.” — “Fact Sheet” issued by President George W. Bush on the seventh anniversary of 9/11, Sept. 10, 2008.