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EDITORIAL: Al Qaeda in Alexandria

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It's not every day that a congressman asks for terrorists to be shipped to his hometown. So we were surprised to see Rep. Jim Moran, Democrat of Virginia, pen a column entitled "From Guantanamo to Alexandria" in Saturday's Washington Post. He actually championed the idea of bringing terrorists like 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other al Qaeda detainees to historic Alexandria. What's next? Does he want the nuclear waste that Nevada won't take?

We understand why congressmen work to bring federal office buildings to their district or fight off noisome incineration plants. So we read Rep. Moran's column with amazement. It simply makes no sense.

While acknowledging that other solutions might be suitable, Mr. Moran wrote: "Taking the easy route and joining the chorus of those crying 'not in my backyard' is appealing. But that's not the Alexandria I know and have represented in Congress for nearly 20 years."

This line of argument would resonate better if Mr. Moran had not spent years opposing the Mirant's coal-fired Potomac Plant in northern Alexandria. Calling the plant a "health hazard, environmental danger and major global warming contributor" in a July 2008 press release, he added "I remain committed to seeing it closed."

Apparently he defies the "not in my backyard" crowd only when national security can be undermined in the bargain.

Contrast Mr. Moran's position with the more sensible approach of Rep. Frank Wolf, a Republican who represents a neighboring district in Northern Virginia. He wrote Attorney General Eric H. Holder on March 13 that: "These dangerous individuals simply cannot be transferred anywhere near large civilian populations."

We don't have to worry about terror attacks, Mr. Moran breezily assures us, because the federal court house in Alexandria safely held the so-called 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui. In other words, why not roll the dice again?

The stakes are higher this time, as Mr. Wolf explained to us in an editorial board meeting yesterday. The courthouse neighborhood is now home to the new U.S. Patent and Trademark headquarters, many new condos and businesses, a popular hotel and boasts a new ramp to the Beltway. With more people per square foot, the cost of tragedy would be far higher.

And let's not forget the cost of normality. Jailing Mr. Moussaoui meant reserving an entire wing just for him. With some 250 detainees at Gitmo, there are not enough jail wings to go around. Yet packing terrorists together means trouble. In Guantanamo there are an average of eight attacks on guards per day. How many guards have to be maimed or wounded before Mr. Moran decides that housing terrorists is a bad bet?

We are willing to bet that Mr. Moran has not talked to the guards' union about the benefits of bringing al Qaeda home.

As for home, why should these terrorists be held here in the shadow of the nation's capital? If they escape or if their charges are dismissed on a technicality, as already happened with dangerous detainee Mohammed al-Qahtani, then the seats of our national government and military establishment will be endangered.

In light of these considerations, Alexandrians have a right to know what is motivating their congressman. Mr. Moran is a smart man. Would Alexandria get any additional federal subsidies? Would Northern Virginia get some other valuable concessions? Or is Mr. Moran merely playing to a Justice Department that is currently investigating the former PMA lobbying group that made him one of the top four recipients of its campaign-donation largesse in recent years?

Mr. Moran has made a career of playing it straight with his constituents, even when they didn't like what he had to say. So he should step forward now and tell us: What was he promised in exchange for compromising Virginia's security?

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