Obama’s Show Trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

November 22, 2009

Khalid-Sheikh-Mohammed-frontPresident Obama was conveniently out of the country when his Attorney General, Eric Holder, announced that the self-confessed mastermind of the 9/11 attack, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), and four other terrorists would be brought to New York to stand trial in a civilian court only a few blocks away from the site where the World Trade Center Towers stood.

What possible justification can Obama and Holder have for subjecting New York City to years of dealing with the person responsible for 3,000 deaths on 9/11? And why would they give KSM a worldwide forum for spouting his ideology of hatred?

During his campaign, Barack Obama opposed the military commissions set up by the Bush administration and Congress to try terrorists. Is this why he is bringing KSM to New York? Well, no. Since becoming president, Obama has accepted the need for military commissions. At the same press conference, where Holder announced bringing KSM to New York, he announced that several other terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay would be tried by military commissions.

Are we differentiating between detainees captured on US soil and those captured abroad? No, again. KSM was captured in Pakistan a year after personally beheading Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

One explanation that has been offered goes like this: KSM attacked a civilian target and will therefore be tried in a civilian court. The terrorists tried by military commissions attacked the USS Cole and other military targets. Huh? Did Holder forget the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, certainly no civilian target? And the United Airlines flight that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania after the heroic actions of its passengers was targeting a central site in Washington, i.e. the White House or the Capitol building.

Even if we overlook this oversight, distinguishing between terrorists that attack military and civilian targets creates bad incentives for future terrorists: If you attack the US military you face streamlined justice in front of a military commission (Can we at least apply this principle to Ft. Hood terrorist Malik Nadal Hassan and try him in front of a military commission?), but if you attack American civilians, you will get all the rights and protections of a civilian trial. If you attack people that can shoot back, we’ll try you swiftly, but if you attack unarmed civilians we will give you all the rights of our civilian court system.wtc1

So maybe we are doing this to influence “world opinion” and to show the world that the America has changed since the “enlightened” Obama has taken over from the “evil” Bush. Maybe we want to show how we give even our worst enemies rights and protection that no other country in the world would consider for someone who has admitted killing thousands of its citizens. I thought I finally understood Obama’s position, but then Holder stated that he is certain that KSM will be convicted and presumably sentenced to death. Hmmm. In our judicial system aren’t you innocent until proven guilty? What are we demonstrating with this trial if the Attorney General states that he knows that KSM will be convicted?

If Holder really has a basis for knowing the outcome of the trial, is he just having a show trial for propaganda purposes? Obviously, the cause (of convicting KSM) is just, but the process would then be no different from show trials in the former Soviet Union where the only people that believed in the credibility of the trial were naive communist sympathizers in the West.

Ok, let’s assume that this was just a careless statement by Holder and that he really doesn’t have the power to put on a show trial with a pre-determined outcome. But the statement has been made and any decent defense attorney will use Holder’s comments to try to get a mistrial or at least severely damage the credibility of the trial.

Now that we have started thinking about what KSM’s lawyers may do, why wouldn’t they question the admissibility of KSM’s confessions in court? After all, KSM was waterboarded many times and the Obama administration now considers waterboarding “torture.” Why wouldn’t KSM’s attorney try to get confessions thrown out because they were made during waterboarding? And they could claim that any later confessions were made because KSM feared further waterboarding.

I have no doubt that should these types of defense tactics work and KSM, inconceivable as it may seem, were to be acquitted, we would promptly rearrest him on new charges. It will cost millions, it will distract us from other issues and it will cause pain to the families of the victims of 9/11, but KSM is not going to walk free. Still, this could have been so much simpler with a military commission dispensing the same justice faced by US military personnel.

Thinking about KSM’s defense, there is another danger: during discovery, KSM’s attorney’s could ask for countless secret government documents. Release of these documents could endanger the ongoing war against Islamo-fascist terrorism also known as the Global War on Terror (although the Obama administration does not use either term to describe the ongoing war).

In the end, there only seem to be two plausible explanations for Holder’s actions. First, it could simply be naive inexperience and monumental stupidity. The problem with this hypothesis is that, although we may not agree with them, we are dealing with smart people that have managed to rise to the top in their fields and to the leadership of the US government. Then again, the following questioning of Attorney General Eric Holder by Senator Lindsey Graham doesn’t inspire confidence in Holder’s competence:

The second explanation is worse. Maybe the goal of Obama / Holder is to put the “evil” Bush / Cheney administration on trial. It is hard to see how any defense attorney for KSM will not bring up enhanced interrogation techniques including waterboarding that were used to extract information about ongoing terror plots in order to prevent future attacks. The Obama administration has condemned these methods as “torture” and continues to vilify President Bush and Vice President Cheney for having used these methods in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. They neglect to mention that enhanced interrogation techniques hadn’t been used for several years.

KSM was ready to plead guilty to his acts last year and was willing to face the death penalty. One hesitates to give KSM the “martyrdom” that he wants. But bringing him to New York City for a civilian trial will cause the families of his victims to relive the pain of their loss. It will provide KSM a platform to spew his hateful ideology to the world. And it will rile up sympathizers and possibly inspire others to commit terrorist acts against us. It may even make New York the target of another attack. It will also cost millions of dollars and take a long time to end. It does not create a more just process or outcome, but it does let Obama, Holder and the loony Left to have a show trial, not of KSM, but of President Bush and his administration.

If you would have asked people on 9/12/2001 if America could prevent another terrible attack for eight years, most people would have believed this impossible. Yet President Bush achieved just that. President Obama is playing a dangerous game, lowering our alertness to threats, continually projecting weakness abroad and blaming his predecessor for every problem of his administration. The motivation for his actions may be. in part, naive beliefs and inexperience, but the only compelling reason for having a trial in New York City is to have a show trial – a show trial not of KSM, but of President Bush.

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