Monday, November 16, 2009

Defeating Divisiveness At Home & Securing the State

Sometime in the still vague future the men accused of orchestrating the devastating events of September 11, 2001 will be put on trial. In the past week, it was decided that those men would face a civilian court in lower Manhattan, where the attacks were focused. U.S. Attorneys from Manhattan and eastern Virginia, home to the Pentagon, will be responsible for prosecuting the case as a team. This series of decisions has brought many raised eyebrows and much worried wringing of hands. Though President Obama’s promise to close Guantanamo Bay has been hanging around for some time now, for many it has remained a difficult-to-imagine proposition. With the announcement that some of the Bay’s most volatile and threatening inmates will be leaving its confines to face public trial, many, from civilians to government officials, have raised considerable concerns about the wisdom of allowing these men a day in a public courtroom and taking them out of their high-security vacuum. There is worry about the trial inspiring anti-American propaganda (or worse, action) from sympathetic extremists, or about the move to a little-used, less-secure Illinois prison enabling the possibility of escape.
Of course, those that put forth these concerns offer no other solutions, but are doing sufficiently well at getting their names and comments in newspapers and scaring others into sharing their fears. The problem with these trepidations is that reverting to the opposite position would certainly irritate just as many individuals (in truth, many of the same individuals). To leave the men in Guantanamo Bay and deal with them in military tribunals where they would most certainly be dealt a more severe hand, would get those ever-reliable activist groups in a tizzy over unfair living conditions and the lack of a democratic trial by peers.
As we are now discussing the structure of the national security state, this issue is of primary importance. Regardless of how individual citizens or policy makers may feel, the decision has already been made to give these men a public trial and move them (most likely) to Illinois. The path that has been chosen is a civilian one. Inciting fear and concern for the impact of such a decision must now be put aside. It is thus the responsibility of citizens and officials to ensure that the United States puts forth a strong unified face against those who have attacked us in the past. Offering up shirking fears about the wisdom of the decision made by the Attorney General only displays the divisiveness possible in the American public. Such actions do not deter those who seek to harm our nation, but instead encourage them. It is rare that the American people have something they can all have a hand in effecting; the public trial of the men who are accused of killing our neighbors, friends, and family members is certainly one. We must prove to these perpetrators, as well as those who aspire to their actions, that we will give them a fair trial with a just outcome and prove that on issues of our national security, this nation stands as one.
In short, if the American people will support those attorneys from Manhattan and eastern Virginia and remain staunch believers in the effectiveness and efficiency of our judicial system, any fears still maintained will be proved unnecessary and divisiveness overcome. In doing so, each citizen has a hand in making our state stronger and more secure.


danger!danger! said...

The debate on the wisdom of this policy aside, something about Holder's testimony struck me. As a response to a question about what the Administration's plans were in the case the suspects are acquitted (even on a technicality). Holder replied, "Failure is not an option. These are cases that have to be won. I don't expect that we will have a contrary result."

This raises two points: First, any time a case goes before a jury, it is by no means a sure thing. This is to say nothing of the possibility of a judicial ruling that would make prosecution unlikely, especially in a case which will likely raise all kinds of novel legal questions about evidence obtained under duress, among other things. Second, the reluctance to set out a potential policy in case of acquittal mean that there isn't one? Or that we are not allowed to know what it is? Does it need to be secret, even in its broad outline?

It seems that either the Administration is being very secretive about this (which could arguably be justified) is unprepared for the acquittal possibility, or our legal system (and the balance of powers at the Federal level) doesn't work like I thought it did. Last I checked, the executive branch couldn't predict or control the actions of the judicial branch, let alone a jury.

Dr. Smellgood said...

Had you kept watching, you would have seen Eric Holder being pressed further about his comments that "failure is not an option." He clarified that IF, IF the suspects were to be acquitted, they would not be simply released onto the streets of NY. I realize that he didn't give a concrete Plan B, but I have to assume that there is one. In regards to the the original post, opponents of a civilian trial ARE offering a solution; the military tribunals. This is a pretty big slap in the face to the NYPD though. It's basically saying that the NYPD is junior varsity and that this is too important of a game to be put in their hands. It should be noted that this is not the first time we have convicted terrorists in civilian courts. We have done it several times, all with success (success meaning a conviction and the maintenance of security for the city where the trial took place).

I have confidence that Holder has done his due diligence. If he was not confident that the evidence in hand would not hold in a civilian court, I'm sure he would have opted for the alternative. And in regards to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others having a platform to espouse his extremist ideology- is there still anyone in the U.S. who is clueless as to what these extremists already think? It's not exactly a secret that extremists wish not so nice things upon Americans.

I'm with Holder. "I aint afraid of no ghosts." (except substitute "terrorist ideology" for ghosts)