After a wave of broad opposition to holding a civilian trial in lower Manhattan for 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the White House has quietly instructed the Department of Justice to begin looking for other venues for the high-profile trial. NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Dem. Sen. Dianne Feinstein recently joined the growing chorus of voices on the left and right expressing concerns about the wisdom and feasibility on holding a controversial trial liable to be a major propaganda target just minutes from Ground Zero.
The move is a tacit admission that the entire exercise has been a foolhardy one from the outset. The Obama administration is no doubt still committed to holding civilian trials for terrorists, but if New York City is unwilling to take on the security and logistical challenges of hosting these trials, will any major US city be chomping at the bit to pick up the slack?
It remains my belief that KSM and other terrorists and enemy combatants, as non-uniformed foreign fighters, do not deserve the full protection of the American justice system. The apparatus of military tribunals, already vetted by the Supreme Court and the previous Justice Department, was a more than capable method of dealing judiciously with the fate of these foreign fighters. As I’ve said before, putting these men in the American legal system increases the chances of their charges being reduced or dropped in the cases of small-fry enemy combatants, reduces the chances of getting actionable intelligence and gives these terrorists far more rights than they are entitled to.
It seems the administration has come halfway to this realization, but as it still seems bent on using this issue as a banner to proclaim its differences with the previous administration, even to the point of harm, then my concerns and misgivings regarding this approach remain.