The Corner

Death Blow: The White House Sounds the Retreat on Trying KSM in Civilian Court

There’s nothing quite so satisfying as being proved right. We hate to say we told you so, but…

The Washington Post reports this morning that the president’s advisers will recommend that Khalid Sheik Muhammed be tried by military commission, not civilian trial. This leak from the White House means it’s all over for Attorney General Eric Holder’s dream, fueled by ideological fervor, of trying KSM in civilian court in downtown Manhattan. Weeks ago, we gave nine reasons why this turnaround would happen, here and here. One particularly important reason was the likelihood a federal judge would throw out the charges against KSM because the attorney general’s and White House’s extraordinarily prejudicial comments guaranteeing KSM’s conviction and execution deprived him of a fair trial. Once the White House fully appreciated just how disastrous the attorney general’s decision was, they shoved him aside and took over.

Anthony Romero of the ACLU tells the Washington Post that the White House’s decision will be “a death blow to [President Obama’s] own Justice Department.” Romero is half right — it is a death blow to the current Justice leadership and President Obama is partly to blame for allowing Holder to be in charge of the decision for a time. But let’s not forget the attorney general himself. With stunning arrogance, Holder imposed his will on New York without consulting the mayor or the police chief. After all, Holder doesn’t feel it’s necessary to consult with the intelligence services when a terrorist is captured trying to blow up an airplane, so why would he consult with mere local officials? Well, those local officials were more than Holder bargained for, and once they realized how expensive, disruptive, and totally unnecessary a civilian trial in New York would be, they told Holder to take his trial somewhere else.

The Post is also reporting that the White House is looking to cut a deal with Sen. Lindsey Graham to close Guantanamo in exchange for trying detainees in military commissions. As we have said before, we haven’t heard a justification for closing Guantanamo that would outweigh the huge downsides. Guantanamo remains the best place to hold these terrorists. Once they set foot on U.S. soil, they will acquire a whole set of rights to which they are not currently entitled — not to mention the security risks of turning the military base in the U.S. which would hold them into a prime target for al-Qaeda.

Once again, some will howl that the White House has a communications problem — but its real problem is one of policy. No amount of spin could make this story look good, but the White House will try to claim victory if they get a deal to close Guantanamo. But that would be “victory” achieved by PR stunt because that’s all closing Guantanamo would amount to — an appeal to the hearts and minds of jihadists and the far Left overseas, at the expense of common sense and our national security. And we’ve got a bridge to sell anyone who believes this crowd will fall in love with America once Guantanamo is closed.

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