According to an article in Friday’s New York Times, President Obama may be changing his mind about holding the trial of 9/11 attacks mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in lower Manhattan, just blocks away from where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood.  The President sees having the trial in Manhattan as an opportunity to provide a poignant demonstration of American justice in action; however, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has come to see it as disruptive and costly, and several U.S. Senators have argued that having the trial in New York would provide terrorists with a highly visible platform to celebrate their deeds and to recruit others to their ranks.  If you were charged with determining where to hold this trial, what would you do?

Would you agree that it provides us with an opportunity that we should not miss to show the world our commitment to the rule of law, even (or perhaps especially) in cases where some  be more interested in revenge than in justice?

Would you think, instead, that it would be exactly the kind of world-wide spectacle that those who seek to undermine our system would want?

Would you ignore the question of which side would benefit most from the spectacle and focus, rather, on the concrete disruptions and the real costs of providing the kind of security that would be needed to protect those who live and work in Manhattan during the trial?

Would you claim that we are dealing with enemy combatants and should hold a military tribunal rather than a civil trial?

Which, if any, of these factors seems most important for the decision concerning where justice ought to be served in this case?  What would you do?     

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One Response to Where Should We Try the Perpetrators of the 9/11 Attacks?

  1. A-Bax says:

    1) I would not so agree. Conducting military tribunals is sufficient adherence to the rule-of-law. In addition, KSM, et al., are not US citizens, and are thus not entitled to the suite of rights that such citizenship confers (i.e., KSM manifestly does not have the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” (a very high standard), nor does he have discovery rights, nor does he have a right to trial by jury). Finally, KSM et al., are not, strictly speaking, even covered by the Geneva conventions, as they didn’t abide by its strictures (the wearing of a uniform, providing name & rank upon capture, etc.).

    It is largely through national benevolence and the recoil felt at summary “justice” (read: execution) that KSM is being offered any trial at all. He’s not entitled to even a military trial, much less a civilian one.

    2) Yes, I do think it would be a world-wide spectacle. I base this, in part, on KSM’s own admission that he would indeed use his civilian trail as a soap-box to launch foreign policy screeds against the West.

    3) No, I would not so ignore and focus. The question of cost and disruption, while serious, are secondary. The primary question is whether KSM is entitled to such a trial, and as per (1) above I do not think he is so entitled. Eric Holder is simply mistaken.

    If we go down the rabbit hole of trying to estimate the costs (monetary and otherwise) of a civilian trial for KSM in the mainland US (New York City or otherwise), we must include the increased likelihood of terrorist attacks at the site of the trial. As the would-be Christmas day underwear-bomber showed us, jihadists continue to recruit, train, and deploy their followers at domestic targets. The civilian trial of KSM, et al., looks like a pretty juicy target.

    4). Yes, without question.

    5) The most important factors in determining what to do with KSM, post-capture, is a) that he is not a US citizen, b) that he is waging war against us, c) that he operates outside the bounds of the Geneva conventions. In my view, given these three factors, it would be permissible to summarily execute KSM, without a trial of any kind.

    What would I do? I would pick up where we left off before Eric Holder began meddling and continue KSM’s military trial. At the time of Holder’s ill-conceived intervention, KSM was preparing to plead guilty and reap his heavenly reward. I say: let him bask in Allah’s tender mercies – let him achieve automatic entry to heaven via martyrdom.

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