Monday, November 16, 2009

Bipartisan Criticism Of NYC 9/11 Trials Continues

Far from being a partisan split, we're finding that there's bipartisan anger over the Obama Administration's decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and four other al Qaeda terrorists in New York City less than a mile from Ground Zero.

The latest person to slam the Administration? That would be New York State Governor David Paterson (D) who said that this was not a decision he would have made had he been in a position to do so.
"This is not a decision that I would have made. I think terrorism isn't just attack, it's anxiety and I think you feel the anxiety and frustration of New Yorkers who took the bullet for the rest of the country," he said.

Paterson's comments break with Democrats, who generally support the President's decision.

"Our country was attacked on its own soil on September 11, 2001 and New York was very much the epicenter of that attack. Over 2,700 lives were lost," he said. "It's very painful. We're still having trouble getting over it. We still have been unable to rebuild that site and having those terrorists so close to the attack is gonna be an encumbrance on all New Yorkers."

Paterson also said that the White House warned him six months ago this very situation would happen. He said while he disagrees with the decision, he will do everything in his power to make sure that the state's Department of Homeland Security will keep New Yorkers as safe as possible.

Republicans, including former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, have said the group should be tried in a different location under military tribunal because the attacks are considered an act of war.
The fact is that the Obama Administration is tying itself in knots over this needless decision because of one salient fact.

There's no way that the Administration is going to release Khalid Sheikh Mohammad if a jury somehow acquits him or results in a hung jury. Moreover, the government is going to do all it can to tailor the charges and the evidence to result in a conviction, which is tantamount to being a show trial. Patterico delves into that issue more deeply, and it is a serious read.

Moreover, the President himself believed that the 9/11 terrorists in custody were prisoners of war, which makes me wonder why they're getting access to civilian courts, given that under the Geneva Conventions, a military tribunal would be the appropriate venue.

The Obama Administration is clearly picking and choosing its position based not on sound legal reasoning, but political expediency, which in this case is to satisfy a political need to show that the Administration is closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

Of course, those detainees aren't going anywhere. They're not going to get released, but shifted to other facilities. It's so that President Obama can differentiate itself from President Bush's policies.

Then, there's the damage that will be done to the US intel establishment as a result of a trial. It's unconscionable for the Administration to proceed on this basis alone. After all, the Administration knows that military tribunals were acceptable for some of the terrorists in custody, so the legal groundwork was there to avoid allowing the release of methods and techniques that the US uses to gather intel on al Qaeda.

Josh Marshall wonders why people are upset with the idea of civilian trials and the possibility of acquittals when the government could reserve charges that could be tried in military tribunals. That's just it; there's no need to expose that information in the first place if the tribunals can handle it just as well.

I actually agree with Marshall that New York City could handle the trial, but that doesn't mean that it's the best venue or one that should have been chosen in the first place. The City remains a high profile target for al Qaeda, and they will surely try further attacks.

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