Late last week, the Obama administration announced that they were going to put 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, along with several other 9/11 suspects, on trial in New York City.
As they are prone to do whenever the Obama administration does anything, conservatives worked themselves up into a frenzy and began spitting out ridiculous talking points left and right.
For instance, they argue that trying these terror suspects in New York will make that city a target, but NY is already a target, and has been at least since the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
They argue that this trial will become a circus, but I have confidence that the legal proceedings will be kept straightforward and by-the-books and that common-sense measures–like barring television cameras–will ensure that this trial is as orderly as any other.
They argue that a public trial will give the suspects a pulpit from which to preach their radical beliefs. But so what if it does? Do they really think that the terrorists will benefit by having their conspiratorial, extremist philosophy laid out for all to see? Do they really think that people are going to hear those unhinged rantings be won over?
One of the most moronic talking points I’ve heard on this is that the trial could somehow be used by terrorists for recruiting purposes. We’re recognizing their rights and prosecuting them in open court–how is that supposed to flame anti-American sentiment? That is, any more than throwing those suspects in prison, forever, without trial?
Conservatives fret that the terrorism suspects could be found not guilty and set free, as if the Obama administration would put these guys on trial without being certain they had a strong case guaranteed to get a conviction.
But why is the Obama administration is putting these guys on trial in the first place? Well, because they have no choice–Here’s Article 3, Section 2 of the United States Constitution:
The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.
Here’s the 5th Amendment:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
And the 6th Amendment:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
And the 14th Amendment:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
[All emphasis mine]
The constitution is what makes the United States of America the great and free country it is. The constitution is America, and America is the constitution. No Presidential administration can just ignore these fundamental laws.
There is simply no way around the constitution here. If some people want to live in a country where terrorism suspects or other criminals can be thrown in jail for life without due process, then they can’t live here.
What separates us from those we fight is our respect for the rule of law, our respect the inalienable rights of each and every human being and a steadfast unwillingness to waver on those principles. Throwing suspected criminals–even those accused of committing terrible crimes–into jail, for life, without a trial, does not align with American values.
And, the truth is, our system works. 1993 World Trade Center bombers Ramzi Yousef and Omar Abdel-Ragman were captured, tried, found guilty and sentenced to life in a supermax prison–one of the most secure, impenetrable detention facilities on the face of the Earth.
By following our constitution and respecting our laws and values, we were able to put extraordinarily dangerous men behind bars, forever, forever robbing them of the ability to take innocent lives in the service of their twisted agenda. And none of the right-wing doomsday scenarios about putting terrorism suspects on trial came to pass.
This is absolutely the right thing for the Obama administration to do, and the fact that this is in any way unprecedented–or controversial–speaks volumes about the disrespect some conservatives have for fundamental American values.