The Obama Administration announced this morning that it intends to ship five Guantanamo Bay detainees to New York to be tried in civilian federal court. One of those men is the September 11th mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammad.
This decision will be seen by many liberals as paving the way for closing the Guantanamo Bay facility. It is also an olive branch by an Administration facing growing criticism from its own party for its failure to move forward on closing the facility by its January 22nd deadline. In fact, the President has been battered lately by the left for staying too close to Bush Administration terrorism policies. So close in fact, that the Obama Administration had announced its intent to continue to use military tribunals despite Obama’s feverish opposition to such an idea during the Presidential campaigns.
Obama tried to make his case today for this decision by stating that Khalid Sheik Mohammad, one of the four set to be tried, would be subject to “the most exacting demands of justice.” But this move would be anything but justice.
Civilian courts are horribly situated to handle the prosecution of these types of detainees. Not only there potential security concerns associated with transporting such high-value detainees thousands of miles away, but these five men, charged with crimes related to the attacks of 9/11 would be tried in New York City, the very same location of the attacks. Defense lawyers are sure to argue that the venue is prejudicial paving the way for multiple due process challenges.
While this decision will certainly appease those seeking to erode America’s ability to prosecute war criminals under a military tribunal, there is no reason to believe a military tribunal isn’t capable of exacting justice on these four suspects. Placing these detainees in a domestic criminal proceeding creates evidentiary, security, and procedural issues. These detainees are not common criminals—but individuals that committed an act of war against the United States. Not only does the law sufficiently provide for use of military tribunals, common sense demands it.
The Obama Administration’s scattered counterterrorism policies, littered with efforts to placate the left while recognizing the legitimacy of some Bush era policies, are an invitation for terrorists to take advantage of America’s divisions. Obama needs to be clear, forceful, and direct, sending the message that America won’t stand for terrorism.