WASHINGTON — Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and four other men accused in the plot will be prosecuted in federal court in New York City, the United States attorney general announced Friday.
This is good news, knuckle-dragging savages not withstanding. The military tribunal program had a laundry list of problems, both legally and morally, not the least of which being that it violates habeas corpus:
Let us say that my wife, who is here in the gallery with us tonight, a sixth generation Oregonian, is walking by the friendly, local military base and is picked up as an unlawful enemy combatant. What is her recourse? She says, “I am a U.S. citizen”. That is a jurisdictional fact under this statute, and she will not have recourse to the courts? She can take it to Donald Rumsfeld, but she cannot take it across the street to an article 3 court.
What if the evidence they have on a suspect is flawed? What if they're trying to continue to have me detained simply to avoid the embarrassment of admitting error. Our system, like the people who administer it, is a fallible one. There are, of course, other arguments. National security is a popular one. After all, any trial of a person like Mr. Muhammed is going to involve classified materials and intelligence, the disclosure of which would compromise one if not many ongoing investigations. However, other high profile trials have done this without any major issues. The trial of Manuel Noriega come to mind.
The odds of my Kahid Sheik Muhammed being innocent are pretty low. That being said, the most sacred part of our legal system has been the presumption that we're innocent until proven guilty. And, frankly, when you start compromising on legal principles the line between right and wrong gets very blurred. And our intelligence services have never been wrong on similar matters.