Schumer, 2001: 9/11 terrorists won't get courtroom trials

Kerry Picket at the Washington Times unearths this artifact from when Democrats considered a terrorist attack by a foreign cabal a little more important than a gangland shootout.  Ten weeks after the attack, Sen. Chuck Schumer insisted that the US had to have military tribunals for terrorists discovered and captured through intelligence assets rather than law-enforcement personnel, and for the same reasons that most people object to the Obama administration decision now:

There are also those prisoners of war who we have captured and will capture in Afghanistan and other countries who will receive a trial of some sort. It is clear we need to try those suspects in a forum that achieves two primary goals—two goals, I might add, that may not conflict. First, the Government must have the power to use even the most sensitive classified evidence against these suspects without compromising national security in any way, shape, or form. In addition, those who commit acts of war against the United States, particularly those who have no color of citizenship, don’t deserve the same panoply of due process rights that American citizens receive. Should Osama bin Laden be captured alive—and I imagine most Americans hope he won’t be captured alive. But if he is, it is ludicrous to suggest he should be tried in a Federal court on Center Street in Lower Manhattan.

Ludicrous?  Of course it is, just as it was almost eight years ago this week.  Yesterday, however, when challenged by the Washington Times, Schumer defends his flip-flop by saying that he wants the 9/11 plotters executed:

Kerry explains that there may be more to it than that:

Schumer not only believes a 9/11 terrorist suspect like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed should be tried in a civil court six blocks from the ruins of Ground Zero, he also wants seventy-five million dollars a year reimbursement for the city New York, which he says would cover the costs of terror trial security.

Well, there are easier ways to get $75 million, especially for Senators who have no compunction about shoveling pork into home states, and Schumer more than qualifies for that. I can also allow for the possibility of a legitimate change of mind, but that requires some explanation. All Schumer offers, though, is a series of non-sequiturs.

For instance, when asked by the reporter why Schumer now backs criminal trials over military tribunals, Schumer says he wants to see them executed. But if that’s what Schumer wants, why didn’t he press Obama to allow Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to file his offered guilty plea in the tribunal? The military tribunal could have passed sentence immediately, and thanks to the streamlined appeals process, the execution may have taken place this year, and certainly no later than next year. We won’t even get to trial in 2010.

And the track record of trials for terrorists hasn’t exactly been a confidence builder for death-penalty sentences, either. The Blind Sheikh is doing life in Stillwater, Minnesota for leading the conspiracy to attack the World Trade Center in 1993, which killed six people. None of the defendants got a death sentence. Zacarias Moussaoui will also spend his life as a guest of the US after a jury failed to return a death sentence for his role as an al-Qaeda agent. The Department of Justice has an o-fer on executions.

So the questions Schumer has to answer are these: What has changed in eight years to transform KSM and his cohorts into people who do “deserve the same panoply of due process rights that American citizens receive”? And if Schumer wants them executed, why did he pick the least-likely and slowest manner in which to pursue that goal? Non-sequiturs such as “I wrote the death-penalty law” will mean that Schumer doesn’t have an answer for either.

We’ll be talking with Kerry Picket at 3 pm ET about this story, and Andy McCarthy of The Corner at 4 pm, on The Ed Morrissey Show. Don’t miss it!