Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Senator Kyl: ''How could he be more likely to get a conviction than that?''

Attorney General Eric Holder is testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committe today to defend his decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four of his 9/11 co-conspirators in federal court in New York.  From his opening remarks:
The 9/11 attacks were both an act of war and a violation of our federal criminal law, and they could have been prosecuted in either federal courts or military commissions. Courts and commissions are both essential tools in our fight against terrorism. Therefore, at the outset of my review of these cases, I had no preconceived views as to the merits of either venue, and in fact on the same day that I sent these five defendants to federal court, I referred five others to be tried in military commissions. I am a prosecutor, and as a prosecutor my top priority was simply to select the venue where the government will have the greatest opportunity to present the strongest case in the best forum.

I studied this issue extensively. I consulted the Secretary of Defense. I heard from prosecutors from my Department and from the Defense Department’s Office of Military Commissions. I spoke to victims on both sides of the question. I asked a lot of questions and weighed every alternative. And at the end of the day, it was clear to me that the venue in which we are most likely to obtain justice for the American people is in federal court. [snip]
We will also use every instrument of our national power to bring to justice those responsible for terrorist attacks against our people. For eight years, justice has been delayed for the victims of the 9/11 attacks. It has been delayed even further for the victims of the attack on the USS Cole. No longer. No more delays. It is time, it is past time, to act. By bringing prosecutions in both our courts and military commissions, by seeking the death penalty, by holding these terrorists responsible for their actions, we are finally taking ultimate steps toward justice. That is why I made this decision. (emphasis mine)
I listened to his statement in complete disbelief.  Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) put my question to AG Holder quite succinctly.  The New York Times reports
Tempers flared when Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., challenged Holder to say how a civilian trial could be better, since Mohammed has sought to plead guilty to a military commission.

''How could he be more likely to get a conviction than that?'' pressed Kyl, to applause from some in the hearing room.
So let's get this straight.  The AG wants "no more delays", but he is going to initiate what will certainly be one of the longest, most costly trials in U.S. history.  Holder has determined that the Southern District Court of New York is the best venue to obtain a strong and just outcome for the American people. So the Obama administration suspended an ongoing legal military commission, originating during the Bush administration, which would have likely concluded in December of this year with a guilty plea by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Every word explaining this indefensible decision strikes me as completely disingenuous.

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