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.