Momentum building for blocking terrorist trials?
posted at 10:55 am on January 29, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
Over the last few days, the Obama administration reliance on a law-enforcement approach to counterterrorism has come under bipartisan fire. Reports that key CT officials were not consulted on how to handle the EunuchBomber angered Congress enough to propose a law requiring such consultation in the future. Now, with Democrats beginning to object to the New York City trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the closure of Gitmo hopelessly mired in what the Washington Post calls “dwindling options,” Lindsey Graham will attempt to reintroduce a bill prohibiting any funding for federal trials of 9/11 terrorists, at least:
The closure of the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is beginning to look like a protracted and uncertain project for the Obama administration as political, legal and security concerns limit the president’s options.
Having blown the one-year closure deadline set last January in an executive order, the administration is planning to transfer some detainees to a state prison it hopes to acquire in Illinois. But there appears to be little mood in Congress to provide the administration with either the funding for the prison or the authority to transfer detainees who will be held indefinitely. …
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) plans to introduce a bill next week that would prohibit funding of a federal trial for Mohammed and other Sept. 11 defendants, in an effort to force the case into a military tribunal. An earlier such legislative effort failed, but a spokesman for Graham said that the senator has been taking the pulse of his colleagues and that “momentum has been building.”
Until the attempted bombing of Northwest 253 on Christmas Day, Obama appeared to have some momentum on the law-enforcement approach. However, the outrage over reading a terrorist his rights and providing him an attorney rather than a lengthy interrogation to discover what we could about any impending attacks has seriously derailed both the trial process and the closure of Gitmo. After all, if the terrorists can’t get tried in federal court, they will have to be both tried and held in military custody — which means Gitmo, at least for the foreseeable future.
This could set up a constitutional showdown between Congress and the judiciary, depending on whether the courts eventually reject the current military commission system. If Congress refuses to provide funds for criminal trials and the Supreme Court throws out the current military system (which I believe has yet to be challenged to that court), then the detainees will be left in limbo. The three branches will have to fight for jurisdiction, which could make the entire process a decades-long mess, with some of the detainees expiring of natural causes before anything gets settled.
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is attempting to cut a plea deal with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, aka The EunuchBomber, to get the information that CT specialists could have extracted without playing Monty Hall:
Authorities are inching toward an agreement that would secure cooperation from the suspect in the failed Detroit airliner attack, according to two sources familiar with the case, even as fresh details emerged about the intense and chaotic response to the Christmas Day incident.
Seizing on the near miss, GOP lawmakers have mounted a sustained attack on President Obama and the Justice Department, saying they may have lost out on valuable intelligence by charging Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in a federal court rather than under the military justice system. …
Public defenders for the Nigerian student are engaged in negotiations that could result in an agreement to share more information and eventually a guilty plea, the sources said.
Negotiations could still collapse before the next scheduled court date, in April, the sources said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. But senior members of the administration’s national security apparatus have publicly said that a plea deal is likely, given the virtual life sentence that Abdulmutallab could face on charges of using an airplane as a weapon of mass destruction.
So the administration’s CT strategy is to catch those terrorists who remain alive after an attack attempt, and then offer them eventual freedom for their part in targeting hundreds of civilians for mass murder? Yes, I can see al-Qaeda shaking in their boots now. Maybe Abdulmutallab can help radicalize his prison population, assuming they allow him enough time to do so.
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