Finally the mastermind behind the 911 terror attacks will be on trial for the horrific crimes that killed 2,973 people. What took so long is still unclear. The fact is that justice will soon be served, albeit eight years later.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder however has been under fire mostly from Republicans because he opted for a civil trial rather than a military tribunal for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-conspirators, all accused of bringing down the World Trade Center towers in 2001.
Holder defended his decision today as he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, citing a litany of reasons why America can safely and securely prosecute terrorists in its federal courts. He also mentioned that there are 300 convicted international and domestic terrorists now in U.S. prisons, including those responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa.
Is politics at play here? Unfortunately, yes. House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) didn’t waste any time knocking the Obama Administration, calling for passage of the Keep Terrorists Out of America Act (H.R. 2294), which is aimed at stopping the transfer or release of terrorists held at the Guantanamo Bay prison into the United States. Republican opposition is aimed at President Obama’s decision to close the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention camp, located in Cuba, where hundreds of terrorist detainees are awaiting prosecution.
Some Republicans are siding with Democrats. A group of prominent conservatives including David Keene, founder of the American Conservative Union, released a joint statement Monday on using U.S. prisons to hold Guantanamo detainees, saying “the government should rely upon our established, traditional system of justice.”
No doubt the politicking will continue on both sides of the aisle. The attorney general himself sent mixed signals when he decided to try the alleged USS Cole bomber and several others in a military commission. It appears that the Obama Administration may be cherry picking cases where convictions are most likely. Whatever the reason, it’s good news, not to mention irony, that the suspected 911 terrorists will be tried a stone’s throw from the former site of the World Trade Center towers.
Moving the 911 trial away from Guantanamo Bay is the right move politically, given its history of prisoner abuses. U.S. federal courts over the past two decades have proven capable of trying a wide array of terrorism cases. We must have faith in our criminal justice system and remain true to the belief that all people are innocent until proven guilty, even when holding onto that principle seems impossible.