The Monday edition of NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook was entitled “A 9/11 Trial in New York.” First interviewed was Evan Perez, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, who incidentally wrote an excellent piece for the WSJ about this very topic. Ashbrook’s first question was, simply, “Why is this trial coming to New York City?” According to Perez, President Obama is trying to keep his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility by early next year and will therefore prosecute suspected terrorists in civilian courts whenever a conviction is likely.
All of the detainees could be tried at the Guantanamo Bay facility, but doing so would naturally require the facility to stay open. President Obama is willing to throw New Yorkers under the bus in order to fulfill a campaign promise and meet an arbitrary deadline. Unless the facility is closed by early next year, “…it could lead to a big embarrassment to the Administration.” And we wouldn’t want President Obama to be embarrassed, would we?
Later in the broadcast, Ashbrook introduces John Hutson, former Judge Advocate General of the US Navy and Walter Huffman, former Judge Advocate General for the U.S. Army. According to NPR transcripts, Hutson “appeared sympathetic” to a protest made by a group wearing red shirts who stood and turned, spelling out in big black letters on their backs the word “TORTURE” during a Senate Judiciary panel that was convened to analyze a Guantanamo detainee deal on September 25, 2006. Clearly, Hutson has an axe to grind with the Bush administration.
Ashbrook asked Hutson what he thought about bringing the trial of KSM and the others to New York City. Hutson replied that “[i]t was exactly the right thing to do” because KSM and his cohorts are criminals, not war fighters or soldiers, and criminals should be prosecuted in civilian courts. According to Hutson, U.S. District Courts can prosecute these kinds of cases better than military tribunals and cited that U.S. District Courts have successfully prosecuted 195 terrorist cases since 9/11 whereas military tribunals have prosecuted only three. Asked about the venue for the trial, Hutson stated that it is in the tradition of our civilian court system for a trial to occur close to where the crime occurred. So, despite Osama Bin Ladin’s protestations to the contrary, the attack on the World Trade Center was not an act of war. It was merely a crime.
Ashbrook then asked Huffman for his thoughts on the issue. First of all, the attack on the WTC was a terrorist attack against the United States, not a crime committed against one specific city, agency, or group. The terrorists wanted to influence the actions of United States government through intimidation, and that’s the difference between “crime” and “terrorism.”
Ashbrook could not resist interrupting Huffman at this point in the interview to stammer
“B-b-b-b-but if I may, and I want to hear your second thought of course, but, if I may, uhm, I mean, terrorism is a crime. Are you saying that you’re sort of in the Rudy Guiliani camp that should be, eh, an attack responded to with WAR and that criminal justice instead of war is the wrong way to go?”
Huffman reiterated that these are terrorists, not criminals, and went on to say that criminals deserve better treatment than terrorists. The subtext to the reiteration was “Are you really so egregiously stupid that I have to explain this to you?” He went on to criticize the idea that we are going to bestow upon these terrorists the same rights afforded American citizens. “Why would we do that?” he asks. Not to mention the “gazillions” of dollars required to conduct the trial in New York City. And what about the “speedy trial” requirement? Warrant requirements? Evidentiary rules? This trial will “stretch” and “mangle” the criminal justice system, in part because KSM and his co-defendants were not arrested by the FBI on American soil.
“Why would we do that,” asks Huffman, “when we have a military justice system under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 as further modified by the Obama Administration that meets every requirement of international law for trying persons like these, unlawful combatants, for war crimes? We have it in place, Congress has approved it, this President has approved it. He’s even said he’d going to try some people under it.”
Why indeed. The potential risks far outweigh any political benefit. It is not unrealistic to contemplate that KSM and his co-defendants will be sufficiently “lawyered up” to have their convictions tossed out of court on a technicality. The judge may decide that any information derived as a result of waterboarding is inadmissible. A rogue juror may decide that KSM and his cohorts are the actual victims of 9/11 and vote for acquittal. The possibility that KSM may escape justice is cause enough for grave concern. But when you consider all the ways in which this trial could harm our nation, it simply boggles the mind.
One thing is certain: Once the trial begins, the establishment media will focus on the legal proceedings. The resulting media circus will render the OJ trial inconsequential by comparison. No one will be paying attention to anything else for months. This may be nothing more than another head fake to divert attention away from the radical legislative agenda of the Obama Administration.