Attorney General Eric Holder adopted a tough guy pose when he announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others will be tried in federal court for the most heinous terror attack on Americans in history. "After eight years of delay," he intoned, "those allegedly responsible for the attacks of September 11 will finally face justice. It is past time to finally act."
Where to begin? The claim that the Bush administration was somehow dilatory sets a new standard for gall, particularly coming from Eric Holder. As former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy points out, "The principal reason there were so few military trials is the tireless campaign conducted by leftist lawyers (including Holder) to derail military tribunals by challenging them in the courts."
Those lawyers threw up hundreds of roadblocks. Military detentions and tribunals violated, they claimed, the U.S. Constitution, the Geneva Conventions, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Litigating all this has taken years.
At last clearing those obstacles, the government initiated Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's military trial in Guantanamo in September 2008. In December, KSM pleaded guilty and asked to be executed.
But now, the attorney general puffs out his chest and declares that by trying KSM in an Article III federal court, he has chosen the forum "most likely to lead to a positive result."
The mind reels.
This is an excruciatingly awful decision that no hanging judge talk of "the ultimate penalty" can perfume. What about the increased risk of terror attacks on New York during the trial? The city is "hardened" against attacks Holder assures us. Really? Like Fort Hood?
By granting a civil trial to KSM, while Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who bombed the USS Cole in Yemen, will receive a military tribunal, the U.S. telegraphs this message to terrorists: Wherever possible, attack our civilians. You'll get more lawyering and a better deal than if you attack our military. (And by the way, you'll get more rights than a member of our military who commits a crime.)