Friday, January 15, 2010

Obama Administration Considering DC Trial For Hambali

The Administration wants to bring Hambali, who has been linked to numerous terror attacks in Indonesia and is seen as a key link between Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah, to trial in the DC federal court.
Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, was allegedly Usama bin Laden's point man in Indonesia and, until his capture in August 2003, was believed to be the main link between Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah, the terror group blamed for the 2002 bombing on the island of Bali.
Other terrorism trials also may occur in Washington and New York City under a proposal being discussed within the Obama administration, according to U.S. officials briefed on the plan, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private planning meetings.
Authorities already have begun discussing the intense security measures needed to bring Hambali and others before a Washington federal judge, the officials said.
Conducting a trial in the nation's capital would be a symbolic repudiation of the policies of former President George W. Bush, who portrayed Hambali as a success story in the Bush administration's program of interrogating terror suspects in secret CIA prisons overseas.
Bush said such interrogations, which included the simulated drowning technique of waterboarding, helped crack alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and led authorities to Hambali. Under intense questioning at a CIA "black site," Hambali revealed a plan for another wave of suicide hijackings in the U.S., Bush said.
President Obama already has decided that Mohammed will face trial in New York and has said he believes criminal courts can handle even the most dangerous terrorists. If Hambali's trial were held in Washington's federal courthouse, the country's most significant terrorism trials in generations will be conducted in the two cities targeted in the Sept. 11. 2001, attacks.
This has more to do with symbolism than any actual national security or criminal justice approach. In fact, that the Obama Administration is looking to pursue a criminal justice approach to Hambali raises serious questions for the remaining terrorists being detained at Guantanamo Bay as to an equal protection argument - some terrorists are being given tribunals while others are being afforded the opportunity to be tried in federal court, even though the outcome is supposedly preordained (both President Obama and AG Holder have said that Khalid Sheikh Mohammad would never be released regardless of the trial outcome).

There was no reason to push for trials in federal court when the tribunal system was set up to handle precisely these kinds of trials - a due process system that allows a systematic handling of the cases without bottling up the federal court system or imposing still more security burdens on localities like New York or Washington DC.

In New York, the security costs for the trial are looking to run around $200 million per year, and experts warn that the trial may run five years. Do the math. That's $1 billion for the New York terror trials, which makes little sense when the tribunals could have resulted in permanent incarceration without the hassle or the costs all while allowing a due process and legal protections to the terrorists (and the Obama Administration admits that the tribunals are legitimate and can be used in some cases).

Moreover, the security situation in DC is more difficult given the fact that the DC police and Capitol police are the fraction of the size of the NYPD and the security needed for the trials would be considerable. 

The Hambali case was tailor made for a tribunal and yet the Administration is pushing this? It's mistake and one that simply tries to push a political agenda over legitimate security and legal necessities.

No comments: