The end is near for the Obama administration’s plan to try KSM and four other 9/11 conspirators in federal court in downtown Manhattan. The handwriting was on the wall for weeks as the extraordinary costs of the trial — as much as $1 billion in security expenses alone over four or five years — became apparent and the Underwear Bomber reintroduced the American public to domestic terrorism. Then, Mayor Bloomberg told the administration that it should find someplace else to hold the trial. Now, me-toos have come from New York senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both of whom had previously supported the NYC trial.
It is a remarkable turn of events for Attorney General Eric Holder, who, the White House has said for months, made the decision alone and was running the show. The White House tired, far more quickly than many expected, of the AG’s bungled plan and realized that public opinion had turned decisively against the trial. Maybe the White House grew frustrated with the AG’s mistakes on national-security matters, from releasing the CIA interrogation memoranda last spring over the vociferous protests of former CIA directors who served under Presidents Bush and Clinton, to commencing a criminal investigation of CIA interrogators who had previously been informed by career prosecutors that they would not be subject to prosecution, to deciding to Mirandize the Underwear Bomber without consulting the intelligence services and charge him as a criminal defendant with all the rights of an American citizen.
The attorney general assured the White House that releasing the CIA memoranda would result in popular condemnation of Bush-era interrogation practices; instead, the American public met the memos with a collective shrug. Polls show that a majority of Americans support even the most aggressive enhanced interrogation techniques that the CIA uses. Investigating the interrogators thoroughly undermined the intelligence services’ trust in the administration, being as it was a betrayal of the president’s promise to our intelligence professionals to look forward, not backward. The decision exposed the new Justice Department leadership as nakedly partisan and more than willing to overrule the prosecutorial decisions of career prosecutors as a sop to the Far Left.
The White House realized it was staring another self-created disaster in the face and decided to pull the plug on the KSM trial before it was too late. The Justice Department is now scrambling to find an “alternative” venue; the administration continues to say that the president supports a civilian, not military, trial.
But the “alternative” venue won’t be in the United States. It will be Guantanamo Bay. And the trial will be by military commission, not civilian trial. After the jump are the top eight reasons for this, in no particular order:
1. Attorney General Holder, not President Obama, will take the fall. The White House hid behind the attorney general when the KSM trial was announced last November. The president said the decision was the attorney general’s alone, and the attorney general asserted he didn’t even consult the president before making it. It was hard to imagine the White House playing virtually no role in such an important policy (and political) decision, but it’s more plausible in light of the Justice Department’s unilateral decision to Mirandize the Underwear Bomber and charge him as a criminal defendant.