Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday that the Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into the brutal execution of American journalist James Foley by the terrorist group ISIS. The announcement represents the latest move by the administration to use the criminal justice system to pursue terrorists, which continues the administration’s long-standing policy to resist labeling radical islamic groups terrorists.
Holder confirmed the “open criminal investigation” into Foley’s beheading while discussing the $16.5 billion settlement with the Bank of America Corporation.
“Those who would perpetrate such acts need to understand something — this Justice Department, this Department of Defense, this nation, we have long memories and our reach is very wide,” Holder said. “We will not forget what happened, and people will be held accountable, one way or the other.”
The pursuit of a criminal investigation raises questions about the scope and reach the U.S. is contemplating in their efforts to pursue ISIS. The Obama administration has openly practiced a policy of treating terrorists as criminals, rather than enemy combatants. All mention of Islamic terrorism and the religion component innate to their ideology has been removed from FBI manuals, as well as other terms used under the Bush administration, and replaced with words like militants. Any mention of Islamic extremism was also removed.
“This is more nonsense,” Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) said in a statement. “What’s most aggravating is that either in Foley’s situation, or the other Americans in captivity, the Defense Department is being forced to take a backseat to the FBI and DOJ.”
Hunter is a veteran of the Iraq war.
The Benghazi terror suspect, Ahmed Abu Khatallah, was the most recent example of the administration’s policy to grant enemy combatants constitutional rights. Abu Khatallah was captured by U.S. forces in June and brought to the U.S. for a civilian court prosecution.
This wouldn’t be the first time the administration attempted to try a terrorist in the U.S. justice system who beheaded an American journalist. An investigation into the killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan 12 years ago concluded that the evidence pointed to none other than Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Mohammed is being held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but President Obama directed Attorney General Holder to begin the process of trying him in U.S. federal court — in New York City no less.
The public went ballistic.
Public opinion polls have consistently shown that the idea of granting terrorists constitutional rights and a trial in the U.S. criminal justice system is widely unpopular among the American people. Further, during the most recent push to close Guantanamo Bay detention center, which was the predominant debate during the Bergdahl prisoner exchange that resulted in the release of the Taliban Five, rounds of polling found the administration was on the far left of the political spectrum on this issue.
A June 13 Gallup poll shows just 29 percent of Americans support closing the terrorist detention camp and moving its prisoners to U.S. prisons, while 66 percent oppose doing so. Ideology is the most predictive factor when determining a respondent’s answer, not party.
Holder and President Obama remain resolute in their belief and policy of using the American criminal justice system as a means to try terrorists. However, U.S. investigators reportedly hit roadblocks when attempting to gain certain access in the Libya investigation. If they attempt to gain access in Syria, which is an active warzone, or even Iraq where vast amounts of territory are controlled by ISIS terrorists, then access issues will only worsen.
Rep. Hunter said the U.S. military has a “deep network” that can “exceed whatever the FBI or DOJ can do.”
However, FBI Director James Comey, who obviously heads up a department within Justice, reportedly said the “full force” of the government would be brought to the case.
“I’m very, very, sorry to say that these savages have turned it into a homicide investigation,” Comey reportedly said in Denver.