WASHINGTON -- For late-19th-century anarchists, terrorism was the "propaganda of the deed." And the most successful propaganda-by-deed in history was 9/11 -- not just the most destructive, but the most spectacular and telegenic.
And now its self-proclaimed architect, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, has been given by the Obama administration a civilian trial in New York. Just as the memory fades, 9/11 has been granted a second life -- and KSM, a second act: "9/11, The Director's Cut," narration by KSM.
September 11, 2001 had to speak for itself. A decade later, the deed will be given voice. KSM has gratuitously been presented with the greatest propaganda platform imaginable -- a civilian trial in the media capital of the world -- from which to proclaim the glory of jihad and the criminality of infidel America.
So why is Attorney General Eric Holder doing this? Ostensibly, to demonstrate to the world the superiority of our system where the rule of law and the fair trial reign.
Really? What happens if KSM (and his co-defendants) "do not get convicted," asked Senate Judiciary Committee member Herb Kohl. "Failure is not an option," replied Holder. Not an option? Doesn't the presumption of innocence, er, presume that prosecutorial failure -- acquittal, hung jury -- is an option? By undermining that presumption, Holder is undermining the fairness of the trial, the demonstration of which is the alleged rationale for putting on this show in the first place.
Moreover, everyone knows that whatever the outcome of the trial, KSM will never walk free. He will spend the rest of his natural life in U.S. custody. Which makes the proceedings a farcical show trial from the very beginning.
Apart from the fact that any such trial will be a security nightmare and a terror threat to New York -- what better propaganda-by-deed than blowing up the entire courtroom, making KSM a martyr and making the judge, jury and spectators into fresh victims? -- it will endanger U.S. security. Civilian courts with broad rights of cross-examination and discovery give terrorists access to crucial information about intelligence sources and methods.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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