Of course, this case is just a reflection of a larger problem: an administration that insists on treating Islamist terrorism as a law-enforcement issue. Which is why the Justice Department's other egregious terror decision, granting Khalid Sheik Mohammed a civilian trial in New York, is now the subject of a letter from six senators -- three Republicans, two Democrats and Joe Lieberman -- asking Attorney General Eric Holder to reverse the decision.
Lieberman and Sen. Susan Collins had written an earlier letter asking for Abdulmutallab to be turned over to the military for renewed interrogation. The problem is, it's hard to see how that decision gets reversed. Once you've read a man Miranda rights, what do you say? We are idiots? On second thought ...
Hence the agitation over the KSM trial. This one can be reversed and it's a good surrogate for this administration's insistence upon criminalizing -- and therefore trivializing -- a war on terror that has now struck three times in one year within the United States, twice with effect (the Arkansas killer and the Fort Hood shooter) and once with a shockingly near miss (Abdulmutallab).
On the KSM civilian trial, sentiment is widespread that it is quite insane to spend $200 million a year to give the killer of 3,000 innocents the largest propaganda platform on earth, while at the same time granting civilian rights of cross-examination and discovery that risk betraying U.S. intelligence sources and methods.
Accordingly, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Frank Wolf have gone beyond appeals to the administration and are planning to introduce a bill to block funding for the trial. It makes flesh an otherwise abstract issue -- should terrorists be treated as enemy combatants or criminal defendants? The vote will force members of Congress to declare themselves.
The White House, feeling the heat on this issue, signaled on Friday that it is looking for another venue. But the issue isn't New York. The issue is giving KSM a civilian trial anywhere. Rather than leaving him in the military commission system where he was until Obama decided otherwise.
Congress may not be able to roll back the Abdulmutallab travesty. But there will be future Abdulmutallabs. By cutting off funding for any KSM civilian trial, Congress can send Obama a clear message: The Constitution is neither a safety net for illegal enemy combatants nor a suicide pact for us.
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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