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The DoJ’s Civil Trial Balloon Pops; Update: Bush’s Fault, of Course

By Doug Powers  •  November 17, 2010 11:11 PM

**Written by Doug Powers

With a presidential election less than two years away, we’ve almost certainly seen the first and last of the idiotic civil trials for “man caused disaster suspects” for a while, thanks to this close shave:

NEW YORK (AP) – The first Guantanamo detainee to face a civilian trial was acquitted Wednesday of all but one of the hundreds of charges he helped unleash death and destruction on two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 – an opening salvo in al-Qaida’s campaign to kill Americans.

A federal jury convicted Ahmed Ghailani of one count of conspiracy to destroy U.S. property and acquitted him on more than 280 other counts, including one murder count for each of the 224 people killed in the embassy bombings. The anonymous jurors deliberated over seven days.

Prosecutors said Ghailani faces a minimum of 20 years and a maximum of life in prison at sentencing on Jan. 25.
The trial at a lower Manhattan courthouse had been viewed as a possible test case for President Barack Obama administration’s aim of putting other terror detainees – including self-professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba – on trial on U.S. soil.

Ghailani’s prosecution also demonstrated some of the constitutional challenges the government would face if that happens. On the eve of his trial last month, the judge barred the government from calling a key witness because the witness had been identified while Ghailani was being held at a secret CIA camp where harsh interrogation techniques were used.

The Obama Justice Department said they were “pleased” with the outcome, but in baseball terminology, they barely avoided being no-hit because they got a bloop single. If they’re “pleased” about anything it’s that they didn’t end up looking like total asses.

As for other man-caused-disaster suspects facing civil trial, about a year ago, Eric Holder blew off questions concerning what would happen if Khalid Sheik Mohammed or any of the other 9/11 defendants were found not guilty in a civil court:

Attorney General Eric Holder brushed off the question, saying, “I would not have authorized the bringing of these prosecutions unless I thought that the outcome — in the outcome we would ultimately be successful. I will say that I have access to information that has not been publicly released that gives me great confidence that we will be successful in the prosecution of these cases in federal court.”

Talk about being counter-productive to Obama’s stated goal going in. The case made by Obama during his campaign was that the military justice system had been so corrupted by years of Bush abuse that no “man-caused disaster suspect” in U.S. custody could possibly get a fair military trial. But at the same time, Holder was open in stating that only those who were certain convictions would be granted access to US civil courts.

It’s ironic that Team Obama’s answer to distancing themselves from Bush’s alleged Gitmo kangaroo court system was to grant US civil court access only to those defendants who met the criteria of the DoJ’s politically motivated and/or naive preconceived trial outcomes. Now even their “sure things” aren’t so sure — and this was only their first crack at it.

Amateur hour is about to enter its third year.

Update: Well naturally — Bush’s fault! The quote in that story is from a “senior Obama administration official” who sounds as if he’s moonlighting as legal counsel for Gitmo detainees.

**Written by Doug Powers

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