A dry run for the KSM trial?

Just in case you were wondering why trying terrorists in civilian court might not be a good thing.

The first civilian trial of a Guantanamo detainee ended yesterday with the stunning acquittal of an alleged Al Qaeda operative on all but a single count.

A federal jury convicted Ahmed Ghailani, 36, of conspiring to destroy U.S. buildings and property in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.

But the jury  – after 4 1/2 days of deliberation –  cleared Ghailani of more than 280 other counts, including the top charges of murder and murder conspiracy.

Even though the charge he was convicted of carries a mandatory 20-year-to-life sentence,  Ghailani appeared relieved, hugging his attorneys after the verdict was read in Manhattan Federal Court.

The case was considered a test-run for the Obama administration’s politically-charged effort to try Guantanamo Bay detainees – including Al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed –  in civilian court.

And how did this come to happen you ask?  Demonization of our intelligence services for seven years sure helped.

Rep. Pete King (R-LI), who has been a staunch opponent of such trials, called the mixed verdict “a disgraceful miscarriage of justice.”

“It shows how totally wrong the Obama administration is to bring a case like this to civilian court,” he said. “He was acquitted of 224 counts of murder.”

The case underscores the challenges faced by prosecutors. Judge Lewis Kaplan barred a key witness from testifying because the man’s name came to light while Ghailani was held at a CIA camp where suspects were allegedly tortured.

“If this had been before a military tribunal, evidence that was blocked in this case would have been admissable,” King was quick to point out.

So let me get the whole thing straight.  He was guilty of plotting the bombing (and confessed to delivering the explosives), but the deaths caused by what he plotted were not his fault.




Nope.  Still doesn’t make sense.  And this is exactly what some of us were afraid would happen if trials of terrorists captured in the War on Terror were moved away from military tribunals.

This entry was posted in Justice, War on Terror and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to A dry run for the KSM trial?

  1. Katydid says:

    grumble grumble grumble

  2. roopost says:

    Good Morning Gripweed,

    I’m unsure how the expectation of justice can still hold much hope of being achieved regarding the Guantanamo inmates. Your complaint, while understandable and likely to obtain supporting grunts and ‘yeas’ in the local pub fall somewhat flat in the wider world and in the spirit of US justice.

    Let us take as rote that terrorism and terrorist are a heinous plague and the attacks of 911 were both tragic and profoundly upsetting to the American People. However, the bringing to justice – at last – of these men by American courts cannot, either at home or globally, be seen as a ‘fire and forget’ witch hunt and kangaroo court.

    That these men are not prisoners of war, yet not criminals, were not housed in the US, yet were, were denied speedy trials, and a host of other challenges against US common law not something a ‘military tribunal’ well run and managed would have left aside either. At least not with the expectation of having been seen to provide justice to both the Citizenry that has funded this and the prisoners who have been awaiting trial.

    Nothing so disinfects as the light of day.

    Public trails at least demonstrate that the US is – at last – following its own laws in handling prisoners and exposing them publically for what they are. Sadly, the warts of this process will also be revealed. While the former is welcomed, its price likely comes with the unhappy task of seeing the latter come to light. Misery continues to love company.

    Kind regards,

  3. Drae says:

    Roopost –

    I don’t want to speak too much for Gripweed, but I do know he and I both favor military tribunals, and we’ve discussed Congress passing a temporary law that would allow the military trials to be more open – allowing for journalists and possible television feeds so everyone could see. Our military justice system is just as much a part of US law as our civilian justice system. The Fort Hood killer is being tried in a military court, and no one is complaining. There are a number of thorny areas where Americans have legitimate concerns about placing these men in civilian courts, such as the discovery process harming national security.

    Speaking for myself – another concern I have is this will place an unspoken pressure on our soldiers to leave these terrorists on the field of battle dead. Law enforcement and the military have different roles. Our troops are not police officers. Do our soldiers now have to read terrorists their Miranda rights? Instead of dealing with the complexities of following the US criminal code, will our troops simply kill these men in battle, and what risk does this pose to intelligence gathering? And there is the issue of setting legal precedents. Can the United States government now capture foreign nationals in any country it wishes, and bring them back to the US for trial? Does the United States Constitution apply to non-citizens in foreign countries?

    I also wonder why the Geneva Convention isn’t updated to deal with terrorist organizations, but I suspect the international community is hesitant to do so because it might raise thorny issues for certain organizations in the Middle East, like Hamas.

  4. roopost says:

    Drae, Gripweed,

    Good morning. Apologies for the late reply.

    A “temporary law”? How should such a thing exist? If it needs a temporary patch to make it work, clearly it doesn’t work.

    I agree – soldiers are not police – yet to suggest they are not strictly governed by rules of engagement, the treatment of wounded and prisoners of war, and their own behaviour is wrong. Soldiering is a very professional business. Hence, the risk to soldiers lies in dubious definitions of ‘enemy or enemy combatant’, ‘insurgent’, ‘terrorist’ and ‘fighter’. Using these euphemisms risks soldiers as much as poor equipment.

    Perception requires management too. The ‘War on Terror’ has been allowed to be spun as a hegemonic exercise by the US toward the Islamic world. This view cannot be undermined by seemingly secret trials and ‘patched’ to make such things convenient.

    Kind regards,

  5. Drae says:

    Roopost – I was a bit hasty in my wording – forgive me, I was rushed for time that morning. What I meant by “temporary law” is this – there is already established law to deal with WoT prisoners – military tribunals. The Supreme Court overturned the previous Guantanamo law, saying the President couldn’t establish the tribunals, but Congress could. They did so with the Military Commissions Act, and the courts have since upheld that law. That law is being used to try some terror suspects, like the USS Cole bombers, but not others, like KSM. We could further amend the MCA to make it more open to the media and public, where it wouldn’t apply to other military trials now, or in the future outside WoT trials, expiring once these trials are concluded – hence “temporary.”

    The other morning, I also didn’t have time to list all my concerns about unintended consequences but, for me, one of the most disturbing comments from Attorney General Holder concerning these trials was that if a high profile suspect like KSM were acquitted in federal court, we could continue to hold him indefinitely! THAT would most certainly make a mockery of our federal court system, and it’s enough reason for me to oppose federal trials.

    I can see you are going to keep us on our toes, Roopost. We certainly can’t solve any of these issues on a blog, but furthering the discussion and understanding are worthy goals too, and I appreciate your comments. I hope in the future we will alter some of the perceptions about Americans, and conservatives too. Cheers!

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