Some foreign countries will not even extradite criminals to the United States unless we agree in advance not to impose the death penalty. Can you imagine anything more dangerous than putting Osama bin Laden behind bars? Do you doubt for a minute that his terrorist network would hijack a plane or a ship full of people and threaten to kill them all if he were not released?
Whatever the arguments about the death penalty when it comes to ordinary, isolated murderers, there is no serious argument against it when it comes to members of an international terrorist network.
The great fear of all as regards the death penalty is that an innocent person will be executed by mistake. When it comes to international terrorist networks, how does that weigh in the balance against the much higher probability that vast numbers of other innocent people will be killed by the terrorists whose lives are spared?
No American wants innocent people killed, whether by execution or by terrorism. But preventing any innocent person from being killed is not one of our options when we are dealing with worldwide networks of murderers. The best we can do is to make as certain as humanly possible that as few innocent people as possible get killed, whether by the terrorists or by the legal system.
If Senator Leahy or others in Congress think that our laws will not permit military tribunals to try foreign terrorists, then they can pass laws that will -- instead of turning this into a political football for the next election. But they will get serious only if the voting public insists that they get serious.