Monday, February 9, 2009

Charges Against USS Cole Bomber Dropped

The president had a meet-and-greet with the families of the USS Cole victims on the same day that the government dropped charges against one of the ringleaders:
President Barack Obama was spending time with families of 9/11 victims and the 17 sailors killed in the bombing of the USS Cole after a senior Pentagon judge dropped charges against an al-Qaida suspect in the Cole attack being held at Guantanamo Bay.
The legal move Thursday by Susan J. Crawford, the top legal authority for military trials at Guantanamo, upholds Obama's Jan. 22 executive order to halt terrorist court proceedings at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba. The charges against suspected al-Qaida bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri marked the last active Guantanamo war crimes case.
Groups representing victims' families were angered by Obama's order, charging they had waited too long already to see the alleged attackers brought to court.
On October 12, 2000, 17 U.S. sailors were murdered when Al Qaeda mounted a bomb attack against the Cole, which was docked in a Yemen port. Again, if this action is based on sound legal principles, fine. But if it is merely political grandstanding to get favorable publicity on the international stage, not good.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Crawford withdrew the charges against al-Nashiri. However, new charges could be brought again later, and al-Nashiri will remain in prison for the time being.
"It was her decision, but it reflects the fact that the president has issued an executive order which mandates that the military commissions be halted pending the outcome of several reviews of our operations down at Guantanamo," Morrell said.
Crawford's ruling also gives the White House time to review the legal cases of all 245 terror suspects held there and decide whether they should be prosecuted in the U.S. or released to other nations.
A mother of one of the victims, however, refused to meet with Obama on Friday and expressed regret for voting for him:
Investor Business Daily among others editorialized its skepticism about the administration's decision.

Separately, the administration has removed responsibility for the constitutionally mandated 2010 Census from the Commerce Department and centralized it in the White House. Does that mean that ACORN will be put in charge of the headcount? More here.

Update: On February 12, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) withdrew his nomination as Commerce Secretary over the politicization of the Census.

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