The one that almost got away
Wednesday, November 24, 2010 10:00 AM
The decision in the first Gitmo terrorist trial in U.S. court is in and the verdict is guilty.... in one count out of 280..... for conspiracy to destroy government buildings.
Proponents of having Gitmo-accused terrorists tried in the American judicial system will call it a success because Ahmed Ghailani now faces 15 years to life in a federal prison.
Opponents will decry the outcome, saying the guilty verdict for conspiracy to destroy government buildings while going free on 224 charges of murder is a tragedy and miscarriage of justice in the highest order.
And they will both be right.
But more than anything else, this whole affair has been a devastating blow to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama Administration's reaction to terrorism. More than a year ago, Holder was seen multiple times on television guaranteeing - guaranteeing, emphatically - that Ghailani would not go free. The fact the attorney general even said such a thing is so frightening in an Orwellian sense that the questions raised boggle the mind.
What if all counts had read not guilty? Was Holder guaranteeing he would ignore the will of the courts? Was he saying the fix was in and the jury was rigged? Or just as frightening: Does Holder understand the unpredictability of juries and the rulings of judges so little that he thought it was a slam dunk case?
But the real upshot of the situation is how the Obama Administration views the War on Terror. To them, it is not a war. It is a police action much like the Vietnam War was a police action.
If the Obama Administration continues to use U.S. civilian courts for terrorist suspects, it is certain that guilty persons will go free. Not all of them and maybe not even a large number, but some of them will go free.
In this trial, the key testimony tying Ghailani to the deaths was not heard by the jury because the judge ruled it may have been gathered under "coercive" techniques. So does the next terrorist go free because they were not read their Miranda Rights on a battlefield?
The Obama Administration has given lip service to treating their actions as a real war against terrorism. If that is true, then they need to treat the captured combatants as war prisoners as well.
If they do not, then they are risking the lives of U.S. armed forces' men and women everyday for no reason.