Should Obama stick to his campaign promises and try 9/11 detainees as criminal defendents or should he use military tribunals? Is the abandonment of the constitution a necessity in fighting the “war” on terror? These two questions have serious consequences for the Obama administration – and the subject, unlike health care reform, may not have an obvious political upside.
“’It would be the biggest mistake we could possibly make, in my view, since 9/11,’ Graham has said about a civilian trial. ‘We would be giving constitutional rights to the mastermind of 9/11, as if he were any average, everyday criminal American citizen. We would be basically saying to the mastermind of 9/11, and to the world at large, that 9/11 was a criminal act, not an act of war.’ “(see politico.com source below)
An act of war? How about, instead, we think of it as an act of terrorism, which hopes that we abandon our principles of constitutional government in our response? Who wins then? Eric Holder has said “that trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a courtroom as ‘the defining event of my time as attorney general,’ and [failinng to do that] would open the president to claims that he’s forsaking his principles for the sake of political convenience.” See more here.
This won’t be a pretty fight. What should the president do?
33 responses to “Obama’s Dilemma: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed”
I wonder if combining the concepts of “war and crime” would help – thus it was a war crime that deserves special treatment by the law? I am not sure about the preceding. I am pretty sure he is guilty and I would like to see him executed in the most non-controversial way. Not sure what this latter would be, though.
I guess Osama bin Laden is releasing tapes threatening to retaliate if we execute KSM. Does that tell us what we need to do?
Personally, I am doubting OBL is even still alive.
I don’t think it matters anymore if Bin Laden is alive or dead. After all, thanks to Bush and Gang and the way they handled 9/11 and the Iraq War – Bin Laden is a hero that will never die.
I’m sure there are millions who would gladly take bin Laden’s place.
And as long as we continue to depend on foreign oil and we continue to think we are the policeman for the entire world – then we will have to deal with the consequences of terrorists.
I’ve said from the start – get off the foreign oil and then tell each and every Muslim country where to stick their sand – right up their collective butts.
Our old friend Jammer wrote from his perspective of having served our country in the military. Maybe his words don’t relate completely since he was discussing a different criminal, but he states clearly how much an insult it is to military personnel to give criminals any military standing.
Here’s Jammer’s thoughts:
“Use civilian courts
Some think the Christmas bomber should be tried by military tribunal. I couldn’t disagree more. Doing so would give the impression that this common criminal has some kind of military standing, which is a direct insult to anyone who has honorably worn a soldier’s uniform.
This common criminal attempted to murder innocent civilian men, women and children in a cowardly act, and deserves to be tried by a jury of American citizens. All one has to do is search online for U.S. District Judge William Young’s statement at the sentencing hearing of Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, to understand why the Christmas bomber deserves nothing less than to be tried in federal court.
Some have tried to put a price tag on a federal trial, but since when does justice carry a price tag? A federal trial was good enough for the shoe bomber when George W. Bush was president; it’s good enough for the Christmas bomber now that Barack Obama is president. Those politicizing this are doing a disservice to the proud U.S. military service members.”
I’m with Jammer. Why are conservatives so hell-bent on holding these terrorists to different standards? Are they so stupid that they don’t see that it elevates the terrorist in his community to be treated as some special threat?
Terrorism is not new. Maybe some of the weapons they use now are more potent because of technological advances, but that doesn’t mean that the terrorists are more dangerous, just the weapons. We need to stop elevating KSM like he is some sort of special threat. He is no longer a threat; we’ve been holding him for a long time and he sang like a bird before Bush’s CIA goonsquad got hold of him.
To me there is only one answer and that is to hold to our own morals. To quote the Declaration of Independence, “…all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights…” Constitutional rights are then the rights of all men, not just those we deem worthy. Let our Justice system, however imperfect, seek justice for us. And let us pray that the buffoonery of the Bush administration did not make it completely impossible for KSM to receive a fair trial. If conservatives had any faith in our justice system, they would stand for a fair trial.
Why do you hate America, Graham?
U.S. District Judge William Young’s statement at the sentencing hearing of Richard Reid, the shoe bomber —
Wow! I had not seen that statement by the judge… excellent!
IMO, we have a perfectly good Marine Brig at Gitmo. Instead of all this political infighting, why can’t we use Gitmo?
By it’s nature, the war on terror is a military issue, thus removing any linkage to the Constitution. The military is better equiped to handle this sort of thing. I say let them handle it.
Here’s the problem, then. We have picked up so many people from battle field, but have stated that the crimes they are suspected of did not occur on the battlefield, but were those of affiliation with, conspiracy with, planning with and/or carrying out of terroristic acts which have or possibly will occur against United States interests or targets both here and abroad.
Is that a military crime or a crime against the State? IMHO it’s obviously a crime against the State and therefore should be tried in a court of the state, and not a military tribunal.
I can’t answer for anyone but me, and certainly don’t have a clue why any of the political infighting is so prevalent and honest communication so rare.
Gitmo reminds me of all the abuses — taking away rights to habeas corpus, torture, imprisoning people without charges and simply releasing them a few years later, the prisoners we found out were children…
None of that is what being an American means to me. None of that allows me to hold my head high in the pride I feel for my country. bush the lesser and his cohorts drug American ideals through the mud and Gitmo is a constant reminder to me of those atrocities and abysmal days.
At least in the case of Khalid Shaik Mohammed, no involvement in any military conflict is even alleged. And Gitmo was set up–deliberately–to be a “law-free” zone, and is essentially a crime scene.
There is not, and never had been, a “war on terror,” unless you think the US can declare war–without a formal declaration–on no one in particular. One might as well have a War on Evil, or a War on Stuff.
The military commissions law written in 2006 is the worst of both worlds:
1. it honors people like Mohammed by declaring international criminals to be soldiers of an opposing army–which incidently is exactly what they want. They love the idea of Al Qaeda having equal political standing with the United States. Hell, why not exchange ambassadors while we’re at it?
2. At the same, the standard of “justice” are several compromised, including the use of secret evidence, multiple hearsay, no impartial juries, a lowered standard of proof, conviction by only 2/3 of the tribunal, and subsequent court review of the proceedings disallowed. It’s not justice, and it’s the kind of disgrace that’s virtually guaranteed not just to “nail” the kingpins, but also wrongly convict the innocent.
I understand back in 2003 a lot of people bought John Ascroft’s circular argument, i.e., we can’t give them trials because they’re terrorists! How do we know? Because we’re not giving them civilian trials!
And in this kind of Alice in Wonderland world, I suppose military tribunals make sense.
But if we’re so certain–because some prosecutor, or some warlord, or someone kidnapping Afghans for fee, said they were terrorists–why bother with any proceeding at all?
Just kill them and be done with it. The reasoning is the same.
Very mixed feelings on this one – the right thing would be to stand him up in Federal Court and sentence him to life w/o parole after a fair trial.
But the issue I have with a civilian court is that he would have an opportunity to use our system as a soapbox for his radical Islamic extremism. For every William Young there is a Lance Ito.
Cost should never factor into the equation, nor should security. I am tired of the right acting like these thugs have super-human abilities. I have a lot more faith in our LE and military than to suggest that they can’t provide a secure environment.
It will probably come down to a political decision and one has to question whether a civilian trial is worth the political fallout.
Conclusion: Deal with it – civilian trial.
Judges have the power to limit speech in courtrooms to prevent the trial from becoming a political forum.
They can restrict testimony to matters of law. This is nothing new.
As we witnessed during the trial of the assassin Roeder.
Well, I am about to climb on my soapbox and make a fool of myself. If I sound jingoistic, so be it. Here goes……………
I am sick and tired of the presumption that we need to be afraid. Afraid of what, I ask you? I will not live my life in fear of anything. Ever.
Terrorist want us to be afraid, for god’s sake – that is their goal. To bend in the face of terrorism is to grant them victory.
We are Americans, we don’t hide in the shadows or run away with our tails between our legs, for Christ’s sake. We survived a bloody Civil War. We faced down the forces of a Nazi Germany and an Imperial Japan. We held firm in the face of the Soviet Union.
Today is not the day to back down because we are afraid of a radical segment of the Islamic world. Today is not the day to apologize for who we are. We are the land of the free and the home of the brave, not the land of scared people that are afraid to do the right thing.
I just don’t get the fear factor. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt stated neigh on seventy years ago, “We have nothing to fear but fear it’s self!”
End of sermon.
Most of the time fear is based in lack of knowledge. Once a person takes the time to know what they fear, they’ve also taken a huge step toward understanding and away from fear.
I also REFUSE to live in fear.
And that takes us back to the scientific finding that conservatives have a heightened fear response. Some might say that the science was flawed, but I find that it supports something that I always suspected. I believe these folks might even be ADDICTED to fear in some cases. This would explain why they love to tune in to Beck and Rush–it’s like a drug.
I think Beck and Rush loyalists are just people who are ‘followers’. These people need the feeling that they belong to a special group.
I think that is why mega churches are so popular. There is very little actual Godly faith being nurtured at these huge, monumental buildings with their day care, fitness gyms, special classes for each age group.
And let’s not forget – if you’re real lucky some day, the preacher might even pat you on your head and say hello. But that is usually reserved only for those big donors – kinda like the politicians do when they sell their soul to the highest bidder.
I don’t know about you, but my Bible tells me that wherever there are two or more in my name, God will be there.
The Bible did not say anything about some huge monumental golden-laced building being required.
Sorry, I kinda drifted off topic.
But when I think about Republican Conservatives and the fear factor – my mind always goes to the Christian Conservative Republicans.
If they did not have fear, I suspect alot of their mega churches would be empty.
After all, they don’t want to be the only ones ‘outside’ that might just actually be seeking the real truth.
THE DILEMMA: would you be willing to get in trouble and it could even mean you being sentenced to death. If that is what it would take to convict and punish someone else who has committed such a horror able crime?
The eight hundred pound Gorilla in the room, KSM was water boarded which is torture no matter how many roses by any other names. The fruit from a poison tree, no matter if there is any evidence based on anything that was said after or during the torture is used.
Still there is the over whelming fact it was done and that calls into question all the evidence that would be presented.
In a Federal criminal trial the fact that a war crime along with a criminal offense was committed will be brought out and be a Pandora box.
In a military tribunal, hear-say is allowed and the details and incident of torture can be excluded for the most part. Another way of saying it is that our sins will not be disclosed.
The national shame will be withheld and we can pretend we are not sinners.
Hardly a well kept secret since even Cheney is going on the air waves pronouncing his pride at using it. He is no Jack Bower!
It really does not matter what KSM spouts at his trial, that is such a minor issue that it is hardly a incentive to not have a criminal trial… What his words could be any more damaging then the planes crashing into the buildings?
I am will WS on this, the terrorists are not super man, they are nothing as special as they seem to think. We, a nation of several million being frighten to death of a group of only a few thousand at best is sad.
Also the military is ill suited to fight them, liken to using a sledge hammer against mosquitoes at the next picnic. That comes not from logic or a realistic thought on the subject. More that with such a crime that the only emotional response should be to declare war.
But in the end it is no more meaningful then the declaring war on drugs, poverty or obesity!
So the end question is which can you live with easier.
To recognize that your country committed a sin
or that you officially ignore that sin for the good of the country?
Fear is also what led to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Why not German-Americans, or Italian-Americans? Part of it was Pearl Harbor, I’m sure, but I also think they were considered “more alien,” as we had much fewer Japanese-Americans than those of the other ancestries.
Adam Gadahn was, by most accounts, pretty high up in the Al-Qaeda hierarchy. He is also a California-born white guy who speaks flawless English, the son of Christians and a natural-born citizen.
If the fear logic was consistent, he would be the most obvious candidate for the commission “treatment.” But the government can do that to them, it can do that to do.
And if standards of proof are irrelevant, why not?
P.S. It’s highly unlikely the evidence to convict Mohammed did, and would have come, from waterboarding. Leaving aside the unreliability of confessions under torture, there’s a reason why our Constitution forbids compelling someone to be a witness against themselves.
In that instance, even a confession is likely to be factually wrong, and self-serving. They’re saying whatever they will stop the torture, which, at best, what they think the torturer wants to hear.
In Mohammed’s case, the fact they did it over and over is entirely consistent with the usual torture model. It doesn’t tell us if they found anything they didn’t already know from it.
The fact that Holder was willing to resort to actual justice suggests not.
KSM gave true actionable intelligence BEFORE the CIA got hold of him. He was not tortured from day one. I read the government’s report on torture and it is clear that he was cooperating before the torture sessions began.
If this is the only evidence that can be used, it will be enough. Holder is no dummy.
Exactly when was KSM originally captured? If it was on Bush’s watch – then why didn’t they try this guy in their military tribunal at that time?
If Republicans are so keen on trying all these terrorists, then why didn’t they do it when they had the chance?
First off, if anyone has a link to the Republican/Fear research, I would sure like to see it. It might be a good thread subject and I have an interest in psychological research.
I had not thought of the militarization of the justice for the 9/11 defendants as elevating their status. It seems that the military, when it hands out sentences, is less severe than what might have been handed out by a civilian jury.
In the Politico article linked to above there is apparently political horse trading going on – such as “we’ll give you military tribunals, if we can close Gitmo and transfer the detainees to Illinois.” It really troubles me to see the latter happening and when it does, if makes the whole mess seem just that much more unforgiveable.
This thing is a HUGE political loser for Obama and company.
Maybe Obama really does not want all the crap that Bush and Company did to come out in a public court?
And if he can get Republicans to go along with closing Gitmo, Obama figures he can at least start to get that stain off our country’s reputation?
Obama is a politician and he knows how to do that horse trading. Maybe this is one time we just need to trust Obama in that he knows why he has to do something we find distasteful?
Obama was given a plate of nothing but problems when he was elected and I give him credit for at least attempting to clean up the mess.
Aw, come on. We use fear every day in our lives. Or see it being used, at least.
Think of commercials. Onstar, split ends, Banquet frozen dinners. There’s an essence of fear in everything. Why? Because it works.
Then there’s the raising kids issue. Don’t we put a little fear into them to make them (hopefully) do what we want them to? What society wants them to?
Which doesn’t mean I don’t think fear is nothing more than a tool. For reference, see ^. I just won’t bow down to it.
As for KSM, strap him down and go after him with a razor, electric, straight, 17 blades or one.
LOL – I was thinking the same thing. What’s with all that hair?
Nair. Or maybe an Epilady.
I’ve found some Republican/Fear data via google searches, but none I thought satisfactory.
Please help me with this…
Here is the link to the study that was posted in Science. It wasn’t about Republicans and fear, it was about Conservatives and fear. Maybe that’s why you couldn’t find it. I am also throwing in another link to an international study about psychology and political leanings.
There was a lot of data on the logic of fear/avoidance with typical Republican arguments. Will have to review those data.
Fear/avoidance arguments, while logically weak, do persuade people. Will look at this more…
People generally believe what they want to – don’t they?
If a person is more prone to react to fear, then those manipulating the actions of people will use fear as their most advantageous tactic.
Kinda like the snake oil salesman – he knows exactly what to say to sell the worthless crap.
KSM needs a flea dip and then hang him with a bungee cord.