Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Show Trial

If you thought the Obama administration deserves credit for trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and 5 other terrorist in a NYC civilian court, think again. Glenn Greenwald savages Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama for the hypocrisy of trying 5 people in civilian court while deciding to try others in military commissions and detain others indefinitely (75 of them to be exact) (read the whole piece). He also points out that their refusal to put all the detainees into the civilian justice system handicaps their argument against conservatives who want KSM tried before a military comission (which of course would be a kangaroo court).
Once you endorse the notion that the Government has the right to imprison people not captured on any battlefield without giving them trials -- as the Obama administration is doing explicitly and implicitly -- what convincing rationale can anyone offer to justify giving Mohammed and other 9/11 defendants a real trial in New York? If you're taking the position that military commissions and even indefinite detention are perfectly legitimate tools to imprison people -- as Holder has done -- then what is the answer to the Right's objections that Mohammed himself belongs in a military commission? If the administration believes Omar Khadr belongs in a military commission, and if they believe others can be held indefinitely without any charges, why isn't that true of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? By denying jury trials to a large number of detainees, Obama officials have completely gutted their own case for why they did the right thing in giving Mohammed a trial in New York.
Basically the system is rigged so that the Justice Department can choose the venue in which to try terrorism suspects by where they're most likely to win.
Does that remotely sound like a "justice system"? If you're accused of being a Terrorist, there's not one set procedure used to determine your guilt; instead, the Government has a roving bazaar of various processes which it, in its sole discretion, picks for you based on ensuring that it will win.
That's not fair, nor will it convince anyone in other Western countries or the Muslim world that we're really respecting human rights and civil liberties. (Glenn has another great recent post on how respecting civil liberties pulls the rug out from under terrorist recruitment in the Middle East.)

On top of that inconsistency, Holder told Congress that even if the terrorists are acquitted, the government reserves the right to continue to detain them indefinitely. That sounds like a show trial to me.

Here's Glenn's conclusion that I agree wholeheartedly with:
It's just another case of the administration wanting to bask in the rhetorical glory of "the rule of law" while simultaneously trampling on it for petty political convenience.
The President has outlawed torture and begun closing Guantanamo Bay, but rendition, restricted habeas corpus, indefinite detention, and military commissions go on. Even the staunchest defenders of Obama would have to agree that this former constitutional lawyer has fallen well short of expectations as well as campaign promises in this arena. Outside of torture, which granted is a big deal, what his treatment of terrorism suspects isn't that different from Bush's.

Footnote: Check out Glenn's blog every couple days, always something good there. He, Jeremy Scahill ( and The Nation), and my man Bill Moyers are the cream of the crop in independent journalism on the Left right now. Glenn is one of the foremost civil liberties defenders out there. He also does great work on drug reform, working for a less imperialistic American foreign policy, and criticizing the mainstream media. Unlike some liberals, he's holding Obama to the fire for doing the same things that Bush did.

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