President Obama's advisers are nearing a recommendation that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, be prosecuted in a military tribunal, administration officials said, a step that would reverse Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.'s plan to try him in civilian court in New York City.
The president's advisers feel increasingly hemmed in by bipartisan opposition to a federal trial in New York and demands, mainly from Republicans, that Mohammed and his accused co-conspirators remain under military jurisdiction, officials said. While Obama has favored trying some terrorism suspects in civilian courts as a symbol of U.S. commitment to the rule of law, critics have said military tribunals are the appropriate venue for those accused of attacking the United States.
If Obama accepts the likely recommendation of his advisers, the White House may be able to secure from Congress the funding and legal authority it needs to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and replace it with a facility within the United States. The administration has failed to meet a self-imposed one-year deadline to close Guantanamo.Writing at NationalReviewOnline, Dana Perino and Bill Burck comment on this development:
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.