Assigned Reading: Eric Holder’s Baffling KSM Decision
(FROM: The Wall Street Journal)
I missed this one on Friday. If you missed it as well, it was an op-ed piece written for the Wall Street Journal by David Beamer. If his last name rings a bell it’s because his son, Todd, was killed on September 11, 2001 after standing up and fighting back on United Flight 93. Nearly all of us have heard his story, remember his defiance, and understand what happened that day; from what David Beamer writes, however, it’s apparent that some on Capitol Hill have forgotten.
Beamer had a chance to sit in on Senate Judiciary Committee hearings last week held in order to question Attorney General Eric Holder on his decision to bring 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad to New York City for civilian trial. I’ll probably push the limit on what I can properly excerpt here, but I know many folks don’t make that linked jump, and want Mr. Beamer’s message to get across.
The committee, chaired by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), displayed the division in our country not only visually—the Democrats were seated on the left and the Republicans on the right—but in every aspect of the proceedings. I expected that some members would agree with Mr. Holder and that others would have challenging questions about his decision. What I did not anticipate was the level of partisanship showed by the majority party. It seemed clear to me and other family members of victims that party loyalty is trumping concern for America’s security interests.
In his opening remarks, Attorney General Holder acknowledged that these defendants could have been brought to trial in civilian court or before military tribunals. But he made the argument that trying them in our criminal courts would restore the integrity of our judicial system. He assured us that the trials would be quick, that the safety of New Yorkers would be paramount, that classified information would not be revealed, that the evidence was overwhelming, and that justice would be served.
Then he said that the USS Cole attackers would be tried in military courts since they attacked our military. So how does Mr. Holder categorize the Pentagon? Inexplicably, he offered up the body count of 9/11, the fact that civilian deaths outnumbered military ones, as a rationale for his decision.
Then the Republican members proceeded to ask Mr. Holder thoughtful questions. Some examples:
How can we be assured that these enemies will be found guilty? Given that criminal courts are now the presumed venue for those captured on the battlefield, will soldiers need to read them their rights at the time of capture? Since you wish to make exceptions on a case-by-case basis to the presumed civil venue, don’t all those captured need to be read their rights and have the opportunity to remain silent? Won’t this venue expose intelligence to our enemies? Can our classified information really be secured? Can we in fact predict how the judge will rule? If these people are brought into the country will they get additional rights under immigration law? What if they claim asylum?
The attorney general seemed bewildered in the face of these inquiries. Recurring themes in his responses included “I think,” and “I can’t imagine,” and “I am not an expert in immigration.”
Has our attorney general not considered these issues, or imagined the possible unintended consequences that will arise from his historic decision? It certainly seemed that way. If he had, he would have had better answers.
The Democrats used much of their questioning time to heap praise upon Mr. Holder. They all repeated the same trope: We’ll show the world that America can conduct these trials openly in criminal courts. And we’ll be successful, even as we convey rights to the defendants that are not warranted.
Since when has “show the world” been a primary objective?
No thoughtful questions from the majority party regarding this decision were forthcoming. Their questions mostly addressed other matters. They discussed overcrowding in our prisons (too many drug criminals being sentenced), asked why none of the $500 million in appropriations have helped the rape-kit processing backlog, and inquired about when recommendations for additional staff would be presented for confirmation. Their lack of attention to the pressing matter at hand suggested apathy.