Via Drudge and the Associated Press, we learn: “Kerry in favor of U.S. bin Laden trial:”
John Kerry said Friday he would put Osama bin Laden on trial in U.S. courts rather than an international tribunal to ensure the “fastest, surest route” to a murder conviction if the terrorist mastermind is captured while he is president.
“I want him tried for murder in New York City, and in Virginia and in Pennsylvania,” where planes hijacked by al-Qaida operatives crashed Sept. 11, 2001, Kerry said in his first interview as the Democratic presidential nominee.
The Saudi-bred terrorist is suspected of plotting attacks that have shed blood across the globe, not just in the United States. Kerry suggested he would place the highest priority on avenging American deaths.
So, this is how Kerry proposes to make America “stronger and more secure?” By adopting the Clinton law enforcement approach as the primary means to combat Islamic terrorism? “Fastest, surest route” to a murder conviction? What about the need to interrogate bin Laden and gather critical intelligence on al Qaeda? Where did Kerry ever get the idea that putting bin Laden through our civilian courts would be “fast?” And how clueless could he possibly be to ignore the fact that much of the evidence against bin Laden (for example, statements of interrogated al Qaeda detainees such as Ramzi bin al Shibh and Khalid Sheik Mohamed) would be inadmissable at trial?
The idea of prosecuting suspected terrorists like burglars or drug dealers seems to make sense in principle, but jury trials for War on Terror suspects are fraught with peril.
“In ordinary civilian trials, there is no significant cost to sharing everything the government knows,” notes Johns Hopkins international law professor Ruth Wedgwood. “But this does not hold against the background of Al Qaeda’s stated ambition of mounting new attacks.” Affording accused Al Qaeda operatives the Sixth Amendment right to a public trial threatens to compromise classified information necessary to prosecute future terrorist trials. Other rights guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment�the right to subpoena witnesses and compel them to testify, the right to an attorney�can interfere with interrogations of captured suspected Al Qaeda agents. Moreover, in civilian courtrooms, prosecutors are severely restrained from closing off classified information under the existing federal Classified Information Procedure Act. Anonymous testimony and intelligence based on hearsay are often inadmissible in civilian courts. And while the lives of those immediately involved in say, a mob trial, might be endangered, the entire nation may be at risk when we allow suspected members of a terrorist network to partake in the discovery process.
The prosecution of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers in our civilian court system, though successful, demonstrated the pitfalls of prosecuting the War on Terror like an episode of the TV show “Ally McBeal”�a courtroom comedy. The trials gave the bin Laden network a multi-million-dollar, tax-subsidized defense team, free translation services, personal dry-cleaning services, and access to information that was allegedly used by Islamists to evade surveillance.
All of the convicted World Trade Center bombers received life sentences. Two had faced the death penalty, but were spared by a minority-dominated jury that swallowed the race-baiting of traitorous defense witness Ramsey Clark (the former U.S. attorney general under Lyndon Johnson). Clark testified that no member of a racial minority group�African-American, Arab or otherwise�could expect a fair trial in the U.S. He also blamed the Gulf War and U.S. sanctions on Iraq for creating the psychological “suffering” that led to the embassy attacks. On another front, convicted mastermind Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman may have exploited his right to counsel in order to establish a terrorist message center from behind bars. His lawyer, Lynne Stewart, was indicted in the fall of 2003 on charges of providing material support to terrorists and went to trial in May 2004; she is accused of aiding a plot to kidnap and kill people to help win the release of Rahman and making false statements regarding her efforts to pass messages between Rahman and third parties.
The Bush administration is now suffering from the Ally McBeal-ization of terror trials as a result of its fateful decision to allow accused Al Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui to be tried in an ordinary civilian court. In a bad miscalculation, the Administration opted to bring a criminal case against Moussouai rather than have him tried in a military tribunal or detained as an enemy combatant. Moussaoui, an avowed al Qeada member deemed “mentally unstable” by several experts, has had a field day making fools of the prosecution. (Indeed, confiscated Al Qaeda training manuals reveal that recruits are instructed in how to manipulate the Western legal system if they are captured.) He asserted the right to see classified documents and the right to interrogate captured Al Qaeda combatants, such as Ramzi Binalshibh, being detained abroad. Understandably, Justice Department lawyers refused to allow Moussaoui to speak to Binalshibh. The court may now hold the DOJ attorneys in contempt. If that happens, the Bush Administration has hinted it will do what it should have done from the start: Declare Moussaoui an enemy combatant and throw him into a military brig.
In short, John Kerry’s bold new counterterrorism proposal is to turn Osama into the next O.J.
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