9/11 planners to be tried in New York

The mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, as well as four of his other conspirators, will be tried in New York City. The Obama administration has decided to try them in criminal court rather than by a military tribunal in Guantanamo. Do you think this is a good idea?

Consider this:

Mohammed has made clear that he looks to spin an inspiring tale of martyrdom in the cause of God and a victory over a mighty infidel power. At a 2007 military tribunal hearing, he made a 31-point written statement affirming that he was “responsible for the Sept. 11 operation, from A to Z,” that he had “personally decapitated with my blessed right hand” Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, and that he had planned future attacks with biological and radiological weapons on behalf of Muslims everywhere “oppressed by America.”

In counterpoint, Mohammed’s attorneys are likely to oppose their client’s guilty plea with evidence of his mistreatment during three years in CIA secret prisons. Interrogators subjected Mohammed 183 times to waterboarding, a form of controlled drowning that until then was universally described as torture by the U.S. and allied governments. Human rights lawyers have asserted that the abuse taints any subsequent confession.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pete

    I heard somewhere that KSM’s confession was – in temporal relation to the waterboarding – antecedent rather than subsequent, as indicated above. Anybody know?

  • Pete

    I heard somewhere that KSM’s confession was – in temporal relation to the waterboarding – antecedent rather than subsequent, as indicated above. Anybody know?

  • Bob Hunter

    Isn’t it also true that now the taxpayers get to pay for Mohammad’s defense?

  • Bob Hunter

    Isn’t it also true that now the taxpayers get to pay for Mohammad’s defense?

  • Jonathan

    Taxpayers were paying for his defense counsel in the military tribunals as well. Maybe the federal defenders get paid a little more than active duty military lawyers, but I doubt they’re any better.

  • Jonathan

    Taxpayers were paying for his defense counsel in the military tribunals as well. Maybe the federal defenders get paid a little more than active duty military lawyers, but I doubt they’re any better.

  • Joe

    Bob – we were gonna pay for at Gittmo too. The Military tribunals came with a free gov’t lawyer.

    I think this is a bad idea. Aside from the confession aspect, the gov’t cannot rely on any evidence in support of a conviction that it is not willing to declassify and make public. And, the defense may have the right to use classified information in defense of the charges. This is why these folks were kept out of the criminal justice system in the first place.

  • Joe

    Bob – we were gonna pay for at Gittmo too. The Military tribunals came with a free gov’t lawyer.

    I think this is a bad idea. Aside from the confession aspect, the gov’t cannot rely on any evidence in support of a conviction that it is not willing to declassify and make public. And, the defense may have the right to use classified information in defense of the charges. This is why these folks were kept out of the criminal justice system in the first place.

  • Carl Vehse

    Power Line’s article,Trying KSM: Why? part 2 , provides more information on the stupidity of this latest action by the groveling FUBB-in-Chief, and raised the legitimate question of whose side he will be on.

  • Carl Vehse

    Power Line’s article,Trying KSM: Why? part 2 , provides more information on the stupidity of this latest action by the groveling FUBB-in-Chief, and raised the legitimate question of whose side he will be on.

  • Kirk

    I like the idea of trying KSM and the like in civil court. It makes us look less like a military autocracy. On the other hand, I’m wondering how they’re going to find an impartial jury.

  • Kirk

    I like the idea of trying KSM and the like in civil court. It makes us look less like a military autocracy. On the other hand, I’m wondering how they’re going to find an impartial jury.

  • Cincinnatus

    Kirk, you’re still begging the question of whether KSM committed a civil crime (murder, amongst other things) or an act of war. I’m not convinced either way. The Obama administration has obviously answered the question quite handily, but I’ve heard no arguments to persuade me that KSM is in fact a common criminal as opposed to an enemy agent.

  • Cincinnatus

    Kirk, you’re still begging the question of whether KSM committed a civil crime (murder, amongst other things) or an act of war. I’m not convinced either way. The Obama administration has obviously answered the question quite handily, but I’ve heard no arguments to persuade me that KSM is in fact a common criminal as opposed to an enemy agent.

  • Don

    I have wrestled with this for some time, and concluded it to be in the best interest.

    In the marketplace of ideas, truth will always prevail.

    What better location than NYC for the truth to be revealed? While raw emotions will be rekindled, perhaps we should remember the tragedy. A far greater sin would be to forget.

  • Don

    I have wrestled with this for some time, and concluded it to be in the best interest.

    In the marketplace of ideas, truth will always prevail.

    What better location than NYC for the truth to be revealed? While raw emotions will be rekindled, perhaps we should remember the tragedy. A far greater sin would be to forget.

  • WebMonk

    Vehse, normally I ignore your clymer statements, but you’ve piqued my curiosity. What does “FUBB” mean?

  • WebMonk

    Vehse, normally I ignore your clymer statements, but you’ve piqued my curiosity. What does “FUBB” mean?

  • Paul of Alexandria

    I think that somebody got their figures wrong. He wasn’t waterboarded 183 times.

    A limited list of the problems here

    1) KSM is not a POW – subject to the protections of the Geneva Conventions, and in fact specifically denied them. He is an unlawful enemy combatant according to the international conventions of war and, quite frankly, we can do with him as we please. (According to the Geneva Conventions, to be afforded their protections a combatant must be fighting in an organized military structure, under a traditional command structure, and fight in a uniform. He must also abide by the laws of war, including, for instance, observing protections of civilians.

    2) Nor is he a civilian criminal. He is not a US citizen nor has he has never been on US soil. He was not even arrested by US forces, having been turned over to us by the Pakistanis. The defense lawyers are going to have a field day with the jurisdictional issues.

    3) Almost all of the evidence against KSM and his fellow terrorists is generated from classified means. I can’t see that any of it will be let into the public light. Odds are that the CIA would rather release KSM than reveal its sources and methods.

    4) Soldiers on the battle field don’t follow civilian police procedures. Prisoners aren’t read their Miranda rights, for one thing, and they aren’t exactly afforded a speedy trial.

    5) As mentioned, terrorists are subjected to “intensive interrogation techniques” in order to extract information necessary to prosecute the war. The emphasis here is on protecting one’s fellow soldiers and citizens; the rights of the prisoner fall a distant second.

    6) Let’s examine that last bit further. Civilian criminals threaten individuals; they are subject to one’s own laws and traditions and a criminal knows that he has done something wrong by his own society.

    Warfare doesn’t just threaten individuals, it threatens the entire society. Furthermore, enemy combatants like KSM are acting in accordance with their own morals and laws. By his own society’s rules, KSM had done nothing wrong! This, BTW, is why techniques like water-boarding are necessary to extract information – there is no guilt which an interrogator may use for leverage.

    Furthermore, because warfare involves large organizations, trying individuals is useless. The entire organization must be neutralized or disrupted; removing an individual soldier or even a general may inconvenience the opponent, but will not stop them entirely. Trying KSM will have absolutely no effect on terrorist activity per se.

    7) Ok, so we’ve got KSM and company in New York for a trial. We’ll ignore the issue of legal authority for a while; also ignore the issues related to military vs civilian arrest, imprisonment, and interrogation; and assume that enough non-classified evidence is available. What is the probability that they can find a non-biased jury in the very city that suffered the attacks planned by KSM?

    8) Senator Reid said, during a TV interview yesterday, that (I paraphrase): regardless of the outcome of the trial we’ll keep KSM in prison based on [Bush's] doctrine of pre-emptive detention. Excuse me? The whole idea of this trial is to show the fairness of the U.S. legal system to the world and we have a congressman announcing ahead of time that regardless of the outcome we’re going to keep the prisoner in jail anyways? The lawyers will have fun with that one!

    9) In addition, New York is going to be Target 1 for terrorists seeking to free KSM. I predict that the judge and jury in the case will receive notes to the effect of: “we know where you live and how many kids you have”.

    Of course, there is also the possibility of direct attack. New York SWAT teams are fine against armed criminals, but they may have a problem with trained soldiers using RPG’s and military-grade explosives.

    This is nothing more than an effort by the Obama administration to put the Bush presidency on trial. It will turn out to be a total zoo.

  • Paul of Alexandria

    I think that somebody got their figures wrong. He wasn’t waterboarded 183 times.

    A limited list of the problems here

    1) KSM is not a POW – subject to the protections of the Geneva Conventions, and in fact specifically denied them. He is an unlawful enemy combatant according to the international conventions of war and, quite frankly, we can do with him as we please. (According to the Geneva Conventions, to be afforded their protections a combatant must be fighting in an organized military structure, under a traditional command structure, and fight in a uniform. He must also abide by the laws of war, including, for instance, observing protections of civilians.

    2) Nor is he a civilian criminal. He is not a US citizen nor has he has never been on US soil. He was not even arrested by US forces, having been turned over to us by the Pakistanis. The defense lawyers are going to have a field day with the jurisdictional issues.

    3) Almost all of the evidence against KSM and his fellow terrorists is generated from classified means. I can’t see that any of it will be let into the public light. Odds are that the CIA would rather release KSM than reveal its sources and methods.

    4) Soldiers on the battle field don’t follow civilian police procedures. Prisoners aren’t read their Miranda rights, for one thing, and they aren’t exactly afforded a speedy trial.

    5) As mentioned, terrorists are subjected to “intensive interrogation techniques” in order to extract information necessary to prosecute the war. The emphasis here is on protecting one’s fellow soldiers and citizens; the rights of the prisoner fall a distant second.

    6) Let’s examine that last bit further. Civilian criminals threaten individuals; they are subject to one’s own laws and traditions and a criminal knows that he has done something wrong by his own society.

    Warfare doesn’t just threaten individuals, it threatens the entire society. Furthermore, enemy combatants like KSM are acting in accordance with their own morals and laws. By his own society’s rules, KSM had done nothing wrong! This, BTW, is why techniques like water-boarding are necessary to extract information – there is no guilt which an interrogator may use for leverage.

    Furthermore, because warfare involves large organizations, trying individuals is useless. The entire organization must be neutralized or disrupted; removing an individual soldier or even a general may inconvenience the opponent, but will not stop them entirely. Trying KSM will have absolutely no effect on terrorist activity per se.

    7) Ok, so we’ve got KSM and company in New York for a trial. We’ll ignore the issue of legal authority for a while; also ignore the issues related to military vs civilian arrest, imprisonment, and interrogation; and assume that enough non-classified evidence is available. What is the probability that they can find a non-biased jury in the very city that suffered the attacks planned by KSM?

    8) Senator Reid said, during a TV interview yesterday, that (I paraphrase): regardless of the outcome of the trial we’ll keep KSM in prison based on [Bush's] doctrine of pre-emptive detention. Excuse me? The whole idea of this trial is to show the fairness of the U.S. legal system to the world and we have a congressman announcing ahead of time that regardless of the outcome we’re going to keep the prisoner in jail anyways? The lawyers will have fun with that one!

    9) In addition, New York is going to be Target 1 for terrorists seeking to free KSM. I predict that the judge and jury in the case will receive notes to the effect of: “we know where you live and how many kids you have”.

    Of course, there is also the possibility of direct attack. New York SWAT teams are fine against armed criminals, but they may have a problem with trained soldiers using RPG’s and military-grade explosives.

    This is nothing more than an effort by the Obama administration to put the Bush presidency on trial. It will turn out to be a total zoo.

  • Carl Vehse

    Webmonk, first, my statement is not from Clymer, and second, try googling.

  • Carl Vehse

    Webmonk, first, my statement is not from Clymer, and second, try googling.

  • Kirk

    That’s absolutely the quandary, and, quite frankly, there’s no real legal precedent for dealing with it. If he’s a POW, we haven’t exactly treated up like on, up to this point (at least as far as the Hague is concerned). Then again, we haven’t exactly treated him like a common criminal either. I’m not saying there’s a right or wrong answer, I’m saying that civil court isn’t necessarily the wrong venue.

  • Kirk

    That’s absolutely the quandary, and, quite frankly, there’s no real legal precedent for dealing with it. If he’s a POW, we haven’t exactly treated up like on, up to this point (at least as far as the Hague is concerned). Then again, we haven’t exactly treated him like a common criminal either. I’m not saying there’s a right or wrong answer, I’m saying that civil court isn’t necessarily the wrong venue.

  • Richard

    One of our former Army JAG attorneys has written an excellent article for the WSJ arguing (I think convincingly)that trying some of the detainees in federal court while relegating others to military tribunals is just wrong-headed: online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704402404574525581723576284.html

  • Richard

    One of our former Army JAG attorneys has written an excellent article for the WSJ arguing (I think convincingly)that trying some of the detainees in federal court while relegating others to military tribunals is just wrong-headed: online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704402404574525581723576284.html

  • Peter Leavitt

    Paul of Alexandria is right that KSM is an unlawful enemy combatant without the privilege of being POW, let alone of a full-fledged legal trial in New York.

    This is all about embarrassing the Bush administration for its supposed “torture” techniques that in actuality were carefully thought out procedures, including water-boarding and sleep deprivation, quite appropriate for use with unlawful enemy combatants.

    During WWII some German unlawful enemy combatants dressed as civilians were put ashore on Long Island and caught. Within a few months they were put on trial before a military commission, found guilty, and executed.

    We will end up with a legal circus in New York that will aid the Jihadis in their savage war of terrorism and provide a rich lode of intelligence to our enemies.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Paul of Alexandria is right that KSM is an unlawful enemy combatant without the privilege of being POW, let alone of a full-fledged legal trial in New York.

    This is all about embarrassing the Bush administration for its supposed “torture” techniques that in actuality were carefully thought out procedures, including water-boarding and sleep deprivation, quite appropriate for use with unlawful enemy combatants.

    During WWII some German unlawful enemy combatants dressed as civilians were put ashore on Long Island and caught. Within a few months they were put on trial before a military commission, found guilty, and executed.

    We will end up with a legal circus in New York that will aid the Jihadis in their savage war of terrorism and provide a rich lode of intelligence to our enemies.

  • DonS

    One of the biggest (among many) problems with deciding now to pursue prosecution in civilian court is that these defendants were not even Mirandized, or, at least, so I’ve read. Assuming that the government is willing to make public sufficient evidence to convict these terrorists, the defendants are going to have a heck of an argument for throwing the evidence out because they did not receive the constitutionally mandated protections to which civilian defendants are entitled.

    One has to assume that Holder knows this prosecution approach is likely to result in acquittal. Is his purpose to try to discredit and embarrass the Bush administration somehow? If so, it will backfire miserably. Video of any of these fiends going free will result in a backlash that will dwarf that being directed against Obama/Pelosi Care, cap and trade taxes, and other leftist initiatives.

  • DonS

    One of the biggest (among many) problems with deciding now to pursue prosecution in civilian court is that these defendants were not even Mirandized, or, at least, so I’ve read. Assuming that the government is willing to make public sufficient evidence to convict these terrorists, the defendants are going to have a heck of an argument for throwing the evidence out because they did not receive the constitutionally mandated protections to which civilian defendants are entitled.

    One has to assume that Holder knows this prosecution approach is likely to result in acquittal. Is his purpose to try to discredit and embarrass the Bush administration somehow? If so, it will backfire miserably. Video of any of these fiends going free will result in a backlash that will dwarf that being directed against Obama/Pelosi Care, cap and trade taxes, and other leftist initiatives.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Good luck getting an impartial jury in New York. And as Carl notes, if Obama thinks that the defendants aren’t aware of what Hermann Goering did in Nuremberg, he’s kidding himself.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Good luck getting an impartial jury in New York. And as Carl notes, if Obama thinks that the defendants aren’t aware of what Hermann Goering did in Nuremberg, he’s kidding himself.

  • http://planetaugsburg.wordpress.com Andy Adams

    What will happen if KSM is found innocent? Will we let him walk out of the courtroom and catch the next flight to Pakistan? Of course not.

    But, the answer to that question reveals the farce of this trial. This is not a criminal matter for the courts of the United States. It is not their purpose. It is not what they are designed for.

    KSM and his ilk are enemies of the state. They purposefully chose to operate as unlawful enemy combatants. Thus they are entitled to the same due process and penalties we would give to pirates operating on the high seas.

    Question them for information. Prove up their unlawful enemy combatant status (in his case KSM has made this easy) before a military judge. Execute them.

    Where are the Romans when you need them?

  • http://planetaugsburg.wordpress.com Andy Adams

    What will happen if KSM is found innocent? Will we let him walk out of the courtroom and catch the next flight to Pakistan? Of course not.

    But, the answer to that question reveals the farce of this trial. This is not a criminal matter for the courts of the United States. It is not their purpose. It is not what they are designed for.

    KSM and his ilk are enemies of the state. They purposefully chose to operate as unlawful enemy combatants. Thus they are entitled to the same due process and penalties we would give to pirates operating on the high seas.

    Question them for information. Prove up their unlawful enemy combatant status (in his case KSM has made this easy) before a military judge. Execute them.

    Where are the Romans when you need them?

  • WebMonk

    Sorry Vehse, I assumed you knew what I meant by “Clymer”, being so well acquainted with it through constant use.

    “Fouled” Up Beyond Belief was the only thing I could come up with, but the phrasing doesn’t seem to fit. I just wondered if it was something clever. I guess not.

  • WebMonk

    Sorry Vehse, I assumed you knew what I meant by “Clymer”, being so well acquainted with it through constant use.

    “Fouled” Up Beyond Belief was the only thing I could come up with, but the phrasing doesn’t seem to fit. I just wondered if it was something clever. I guess not.

  • Kirk

    @Paul in regards to point 9:

    If we bring in Jack Bauer, none of that will be a problem. If Jack’s not available (due to his daughter being kidnapped, or some such) I’d suggest Dirty Harry from Magnum Force, or perhaps Mel Gibson, himself.

  • Kirk

    @Paul in regards to point 9:

    If we bring in Jack Bauer, none of that will be a problem. If Jack’s not available (due to his daughter being kidnapped, or some such) I’d suggest Dirty Harry from Magnum Force, or perhaps Mel Gibson, himself.

  • Carl Vehse

    In his article, “Deciphering the Mohammed Trial”, George Friedman explains why “[0bama's Attorney General Eric] Holder has opened up an extraordinarily complex can of worms with this decision.

  • Carl Vehse

    In his article, “Deciphering the Mohammed Trial”, George Friedman explains why “[0bama's Attorney General Eric] Holder has opened up an extraordinarily complex can of worms with this decision.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    We all might want to consider the judicial implications of the Patriot Act in this matter…

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    We all might want to consider the judicial implications of the Patriot Act in this matter…

  • fws

    I think we should all be patriotic and trust our system of justice and that nothing extra-ordinary will be necessary for true justice to prevail.

    I trust the constitution of the United States of American and the entire system that it spawned.

    Our principles, if we have the faith and courage to follow them, will win the day. Other nations and peoples will see that we are doing what is right. over time these thugs and miscreants will have nowhere to hide.

  • fws

    I think we should all be patriotic and trust our system of justice and that nothing extra-ordinary will be necessary for true justice to prevail.

    I trust the constitution of the United States of American and the entire system that it spawned.

    Our principles, if we have the faith and courage to follow them, will win the day. Other nations and peoples will see that we are doing what is right. over time these thugs and miscreants will have nowhere to hide.

  • WebMonk

    FWS, ROTFLOL! That was awesome! Let me try:

    The whole system of checks and balances our government has in place has ensured that the judicial system will provide a just a fair trial even in these highly politically heated situations, and that they will be immune from political winds which blow through our government.

    If we just trust that our government will do the right thing then abuses of human rights cannot and will not take place.

    How did I do?

  • WebMonk

    FWS, ROTFLOL! That was awesome! Let me try:

    The whole system of checks and balances our government has in place has ensured that the judicial system will provide a just a fair trial even in these highly politically heated situations, and that they will be immune from political winds which blow through our government.

    If we just trust that our government will do the right thing then abuses of human rights cannot and will not take place.

    How did I do?

  • fws

    #23 webmonk

    I am talking about trust in the baby and not in the bathwater ok?

  • fws

    #23 webmonk

    I am talking about trust in the baby and not in the bathwater ok?

  • WebMonk

    Then it’s an awfully little baby, and an awful lot of bathwater. What’s worse, I think the bathwater is hydrochloric acid which is slowly eating away at the baby.

    Hmmm, that’s a pretty disturbing mental image.

    Can we use a phrase that uses something other than a baby in the illustration? Maybe tossing out the pearl with the mud. It would be a tiny pearl with a ton of mud that’s acidic and eating away at the pearl.

    I think I’ll just stop trying illustrations. My illustration superpower doesn’t seem to be working today! :-D

    Since you were being serious, and not sarcastic, I guess I would say that your statement:

    “Our principles, if we have the faith and courage to follow them, will win the day. Other nations and peoples will see that we are doing what is right. over time these thugs and miscreants will have nowhere to hide.”

    is amazingly optimistic and about as likely as gravity deciding to shut off. We certainly ought to stick to our principles, but believing that others will follow along when they see our example – about as likely as me winning the lottery (and I don’t play it).

  • WebMonk

    Then it’s an awfully little baby, and an awful lot of bathwater. What’s worse, I think the bathwater is hydrochloric acid which is slowly eating away at the baby.

    Hmmm, that’s a pretty disturbing mental image.

    Can we use a phrase that uses something other than a baby in the illustration? Maybe tossing out the pearl with the mud. It would be a tiny pearl with a ton of mud that’s acidic and eating away at the pearl.

    I think I’ll just stop trying illustrations. My illustration superpower doesn’t seem to be working today! :-D

    Since you were being serious, and not sarcastic, I guess I would say that your statement:

    “Our principles, if we have the faith and courage to follow them, will win the day. Other nations and peoples will see that we are doing what is right. over time these thugs and miscreants will have nowhere to hide.”

    is amazingly optimistic and about as likely as gravity deciding to shut off. We certainly ought to stick to our principles, but believing that others will follow along when they see our example – about as likely as me winning the lottery (and I don’t play it).

  • Brad

    I know I’m coming late to this discussion, but something struck me when I read “Mohammed’s attorneys are likely to oppose their client’s guilty plea with evidence of his mistreatment during three years in CIA secret prisons. … Human rights lawyers have asserted that the abuse taints any subsequent confession.”

    It sounds like KSM will be able to say whatever he likes, but when he does, his government-appointed lawyers will follow it right up with “the CIA made him say that.” It almost makes him look like just a CIA puppet. No matter how loudly and pridefully he asserts his guilt the defense will just say all the more that he can’t be taken seriously. That may be the most maddening thing you could do to someone like that.

  • Brad

    I know I’m coming late to this discussion, but something struck me when I read “Mohammed’s attorneys are likely to oppose their client’s guilty plea with evidence of his mistreatment during three years in CIA secret prisons. … Human rights lawyers have asserted that the abuse taints any subsequent confession.”

    It sounds like KSM will be able to say whatever he likes, but when he does, his government-appointed lawyers will follow it right up with “the CIA made him say that.” It almost makes him look like just a CIA puppet. No matter how loudly and pridefully he asserts his guilt the defense will just say all the more that he can’t be taken seriously. That may be the most maddening thing you could do to someone like that.


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