During his recent testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I questioned Attorney General Eric Holder about his decision to bring five terrorists, including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed ("KSM"), to lower Manhattan for a trial in civilian court.
In the audience were infuriated family members of 9/11 victims who had just written to President Obama to object to what they called "the sickening prospect" of bringing KSM to trial "just a few blocks away from the carnage of eight years ago" where he "can mock his victims \[and\] exult in the suffering of their families. . . ."
KSM has wanted a show trial in Manhattan from the moment he was captured overseas, saying he would not talk until being assigned a lawyer in New York. And now he is getting his wish. The President is sending the architect of 9/11 to the world's biggest stage for his long-desired chance to become a celebrity martyr and motivate jihadists around the world.
During the presidential campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama openly criticized military commissions. In his first official act as President, Obama announced he was closing Guantanamo Bay. This was followed soon by an executive order suspending all military trials. And now the President has decided to try 9/11 war criminals in civilian court. As Rudy Giuliani put it, the President's decision is "part of a whole package of the President not seeing the war on terror." These trials are the embodiment of a dangerous pre-9/11 mentality.
The attorney general himself admitted during his testimony that military commissions - part of settled law for hundreds of years - are a perfectly proper way to try war criminals. In fact, as KSM and his cohorts are sent to New York, the administration is sending five other terrorists before military tribunals. So let's be clear: The KSM decision was not compelled by our Constitution. Nor was it a strategic decision designed to increase the government's chances of success at trial.
KSM had expressed his willingness to plead guilty before a military tribunal. But instead of taking him up on his offer, this administration waited almost 10 months before deciding to move the trial to Manhattan. Press reports indicate that all five soon-to-arrive terrorists will now be pleading not guilty, and a lawyer for two of them has announced he will make their mental health an issue. No wonder these 9/11 family members are so mad.
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