Thursday, November 19, 2009

Trying Terrorists in Civil Court

The latest evidence proffered by conservative ideologues that Pres. Obama is anti-American and that America is being ruined is the announcement that certain detainees from Guantanamo Bay will be tried in civil courts for the 9/11 attacks. Chief among them is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of 9/11.

The reasons for conservative outrage go like this, I think:

1. These men do not deserve the privilege of the American court system. To try them in our court system would be to defile that system.

2. It is dangerous to bring these terrorists to American soil because it would invite further terrorist attacks.

3. The government would have to give up its secrets in court in order to prosecute them effectively.

4. It would be a media circus and too great a strain on our court system.

As to number one, I agree. He does not deserve due process of law. Neither did Timothy McVeigh or Jeffrey Dahmer. These types of men do not deserve the rights and privileges of due process of law. But in America this is how we do it. In America we are a nation of laws, due process, objectivity, and justice. We have a Constitution to protect us from mob rule and decisionmaking based on emotion, hatred, half-truths, rumors, and the like. It is fundamentally American, and the right thing to do, to drag these terrorists through the court system and show the world that America does things the Right Way.

Number two is, I believe, a scare tactic. There have been no other terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11, despite the fact that they have tried. We are more alert now than ever, and I believe that we are safer now than ever. I don't believe that we are more at risk having these few terrorists locked up in America than we did having them locked up 100 miles south of Florida in Cuba.

Number three is probably not going to happen to begin with, but reveals something about ourselves in any case. The government has a long standing exemption from regular discovery rules for national security secrets. They will not give away information that could be used to harm America, our troops, or our citizens. But really what we are worried about is the embarrassing stuff that could come out as a result of this trial. The torture, the poor conditions, the poor decisionmaking, and all the other skeletons in our closet regarding how we have prosecuted the war on terror.

Part of the reason I support this move by the Obama Administration is because it will lead to more openness about how we've been doing things and it will shed some light on some of our actions that we should not be proud of. Hopefully we'll come out of this a stronger nation with more desire to be just, open, and supportive of human rights than before. They will convict these terrorists no matter how embarrassing some of the details may be, so I hope we end up doing a little soul-searching along the way.

Number four is trivial and doesn't matter to me. It will be a media circus. It will strain the courts. Compared to how important it is to get this right, and show America to be just and strong and confident, those concerns mean little.

It has been well documented (I get my information from Glenn Greenwald: see here, here, here, and here, who in turn gets his information from the Pentagon, Gen. McChrystal, and others) that the imprisonment of Muslims suspected of terrorism without any sort of due process of law is a key recruiting tool for Islamic extremists. The mistreatment of extremists in our custody is driving more extremism. We have to put a stop to this, and it is within our power to do so. Muslim extremists, it is true, will never "like" us, but that is besides the point. We don't need friends, we just need to take the edge off that seething anger that drives manageable dislike to terrorism.

Trying these extremists in civil court, including KSM, is the right thing to do both for ourselves internally as a nation and our security worldwide.


Anonymous said...


Let me say that I agree with you on 1, 2, and 4. On 3, I'm going to venture a bit off post to address "Part of the reason I support this move by the Obama Administration is because it will lead to more OPENNESS about how we've been doing things and it will shed some light on some of our actions that we should not be proud of."

You can't seriously believe that the Obama administration's claim to transparency has any merit.

Let's take the Stimulus as an example. is the clearinghouse and data website used as an oversight to track stimulus money. When a Freedom of Information Act request was filed to obtain a copy of the $18 million contract between the government and Smartronix, the website creator, the GSA responded with a much-redacted document. Read about it at When this response was appealed, it was denied. So much for Freedom of Information and allowing taxpayers to have access to information regarding how our tax dollars are being spent. NO TRANSPARENCY.

Just recently addressing the job creation aspect of the Stimulus, Obama said in an interview, "the accounting (for Stimulus Pkg) is an "inexact science" and that any errors are a "side issue" when compared with the goal of turning the economy around.

Thank Heavens, he's not MY CPA.

More Examples:
The Aerial "Mission" over Manhattan in April of this year; FAILED TO DISCLOSE PUBLICITY STUNT.

FAILED TO DISCLOSE Hillary's donations from Foreign governments;

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis FAILED TO DISCLOSE that she was director and treasurer of a union-promoting lobbying group pushing legislation that she was co-sponsoring;

Attorney General Eric Holder overruled his own lawyers in the Justice Department over the issue of D.C. voting rights (which he and President Obama support) and REFUSED TO MAKE PUBLIC the staffers’ opinion that a House bill on the matter was unconstitutional;

Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act:Obama VIOLATED OBAMA'S “sunlight before signing” pledge to post legislation for public comment on the White House website five days before he sealed any deal (signed first, posted later);

And let's not forget the HEALTHCARE BILL: Didn’t Obama promise us to have Bills available online for 5 days prior to a Vote, so the American people could review them? DIDN'T HAPPEN. As a matter of fact, he also told the San Francisco Chronicle that, “These negotiations (on Healthcare) will be on C Span, so the public will be part of the conversation and will see what choices are being made,” DIDN'T HAPPEN.

John Podesta, the leader of Obama’s transition team, said Obama’s would be “the most open and transparent transition in history.”

I don't see TRANSPARENCY or OPENNESS. OPAQUE is more like it, and surely we are not proud of this.

Josh said...

No, shooting these men in the face in a plaza in Kabul is the right thing to do. The main reason that these men do not deserve to be tried in American court is that our court system has become criminal friendly. Technicality and interpretation have taken over for common sense and actual law. Our Judiciary has been in the wrong since it started writing law instead of enforcing it!

Secondly, unless these people are legal American citizens, they do not deserve, nor have the right to the due process of our law. Our country will now spend millions of dollars - monopoly money, again - to go through with this trial. For what? So the admitted mastermind of the largest ever terrorist act against our nation can have the possibilty of going free? No, Jake. Lynch them, shoot them, stab or poison them, but they do not deserve a trial, of any kind, by the American Judicial System.

Jacob S. said...

Molly, none of that has anything to do with the trial of the terrorists, which you did not refute will lead to more openness about our prosecution of the war on terror.

I will readily agree that the Obama administration has disappointed in its level of transparency, but compared to the previous administration it is like high noon now compared to the depths of night before. You cited many examples which I won't take the time to verify (I'm assuming you got them from right-leaning and biased sources that you failed to verify, as well). If true, they are not good, but none of them rises to the level of importance as the lies and obfuscation of the previous administration. We are talking about torture, reasons for starting a war, energy policy, exponentially more redacted and classified information than any previous administration, and similar issues.

So, yes, the Obama administration has a ways to go to become more transparent, but has shed light an enormous amount of light on how our government runs, and the trial of these terrorists is an important opportunity to take another step in the right direction.

Jacob S. said...

Josh, I appreciate your honesty, I really do. We certainly can take political correctness too far, and you are a one-man army against PC. My feeling is, though, that summarily executing these terrorists with no process whatsoever makes us only slightly better than them. The due process of law, and the ability to exact justice, is what separates us from them. We have the means and the will to do this the right way, so why not try?

Second, the Constitution does not limit due process to citizens only, but to any "person." Go ahead and read it. That is part of what makes it so magnificent.

Third, I don't have the numbers, but I suspect that maintaining indefinite custody over these terrorists in Guantanamo Bay is more costly than trying them in court and then exacting the punishment.

Finally, no jury or judge on the face of the Earth will acquit them, no matter how many technicalities the defense can come up with. Most of their statements and confessions were induced by torture, for crying out loud, about the most un-American practice imaginable and certain grounds for throwing out those statements in any other setting, but I promise it will not effect the outcome. This will not be the most shining example of due process, but it will garner the desired outcome. That is an uneasy bargain I am willing to take, I suppose.

grayfox said...

Love the new look guys!

Momma J said...

"No, shooting these men in the face in a plaza in Kabul is the right thing to do."

Great idea!! That's definitely the "right" thing to do!

You've got this all figured out so well...

Josh said...

Hmmmm...well, I posted a comment about political correctness, the same day Jake responded to my original comment. Somehow, though, it disappeared. I do not have tact, and I've never been accused of that. I do not believe in political correctness, and I don't care to. I do believe that the way to deal with a bully is to punch him in the face, not kiss his butt and hand over your lunch money every morning. The lawyers for these men - yes, I do recognize them as human beings - have already let slip the intention of their clients to use this trial as a podium, a soapbox to climb up and spout off their nonsense reasoning for killing our countrymen. How does giving these bullies the forum they want help us to avoid future attacks? This is not the bloody nose they need.

Jake, just one comment. You say there is no jury in the world that would acquit. I disagree! You are not giving the stupid, the insane, and the idiots in our fine nation enough credit. I stand firm that, if OJ could be acquitted, anyone can be. That is what the American dream has become. The ability to get away with any crime if you can find the right slimeball attorneys, and a jury gullible enough to be manipulated!