TAPPER: I wanted to ask you about the Ghailani verdict. Senator Jim Webb said that the verdict proves “that those charged with crimes of war and those who have been determined to be dangerous law-of-war detainees do not belong in our courts, our prisons or our country. I again call on President Obama to use the new military commission system that is in place to try the terrorist detainees.” He points out that this new system balances robust procedural and substantive rights for the defendants, including prohibiting the introduction of evidence obtained through torture.
So it’s not just partisan criticism. I think you would agree Jim Webb is a thoughtful and serious guy, and not somebody out to score political points against you. Do you think the fact that so many of the charges were, were that he was acquitted, Ghailani was acquitted of so many of the charges and that he could theoretically, we won’t know what the judge will do in terms of sentencing, but theoretically he could be out in 20 years for incident where more than 200 people were killed, this does show that in some cases, for whatever reason, whether it is because evidence being tainted under the previous administration, some of these cases should be tried in military commissions and not in criminal courts?
GIBBS: Let me do a few things on this, Jake. First and foremost I want to be somewhat careful because this continues to be, as you make mention, an ongoing criminal case and a sentencing phase that is yet to conclude. I would point out as a general matter that there are very few federal crimes that carry a mandatory minimum of 20 years. Again, that is a minimum, there is no parole in the federal system.
Relating to some of the criticism that we’ve heard from Senator Webb and others both today and leading up to today’s verdict, the judge himself in this trial directly, in his opinion, raises the question about whether or not the evidence that was not allowed in this particular trial, he raises questions about whether that evidence would be, could be brought into a military commission. Those are military commissions that this administration worked with Democrats and Republicans to reform. So I think it is not at all clear that somehow this is necessarily and either or. So there continues to be pending decisions that are, that have to be made and have not been made on other current detainees at Guantanamo.
But I think that in the case of Mr. Ghailani there was a guilty verdict, a minimum sentence of 20 years that incapacitates somebody that has committed a terrorist act. And because of that incapacitation isn’t going to threaten American lives. I will also point out that one of the main critiques of the use of an Article 3 court; particularly in New York City were security concerns. Not once was there a security concern related to either the transfer of or the conduct of this trial.