Commentary Magazine


An About-Face?

The New York Times, among other outlets, is reporting that the KSM trial may be heading out of New York:

As a growing chorus of New York politicians joined the opposition to a Manhattan trial for the accused Sept. 11 conspirators, a White House spokesman said on Thursday that President still believed a civilian criminal trial could be held “successfully and securely in the United States.” But Mr. Obama left any decision on moving the trial to the Justice Department, and administration officials said they had begun to discuss contingency plans for possible new locations.

It is absurd, of course, that a decision of this magnitude — as we were told, was the original decision to try KSM in New York — should be delegated to the Justice Department. Certainly Obama has become expert at evading responsibility, but at some point one would think the commander in chief would step forward and shoulder the responsibility for making the call.

The election of Scott Brown seems to have shaken some skeptics and chased them from their hiding spots. Mayor Bloomberg, Sen. Kirsten Gillbrand, and other Democratic lawmakers are piping up:

Republicans in the Senate and House said they would try to block financing for civilian criminal trials for the alleged terrorists, seeking to force the administration to place them on trial before a military commission in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, or on a military base elsewhere. Opponents of civilian trials said they hoped new doubts about a New York trial and increased fears of terrorism since the attempted airliner bombing on Christmas Day would win more Democratic support for such measures.

Even Sen Chuck Schumer is asking the White House to look for alternatives. But where? After New York chases what is sure to be a three-ring circus out of town, what other jurisdiction would want it? Better, say the Republicans, to return this issue to a military tribunal on a secure military base. (Hey, there is one in Guantanamo. How about that?) The Times reports:

Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, introduced legislation on Wednesday that would block financing for civilian trials for those accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks, and Senator Lindsay Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said he would introduce a parallel bill in the Senate next week.

Mr. Graham, an experienced military prosecutor who has long argued that foreign terrorists should be treated as enemy combatants, proposed a similar amendment in November but it failed to pass the Senate by 54 to 45. He said he believed the same measure could pass today.

This would be a monumental admission of error by Obama and, more importantly, by his attorney general, who assured us all that this would be a slam dunk, a safe and pain free proceeding. Now that Obama has lost his mystical powers to silence his own party, the truth is seeping out: this is an expensive, dangerous, and entirely unnecessary deviation from historical practice. Obama is colliding with reality.

On Guantanamo, the KSM trial, and the Mirandizing of the Christmas Day bomber, the public and a congressional bipartisan consensus are taking the lead. The Obami’s leftward lark on national security, I suspect, is about to end. The Bush-era policies have been vindicated by none other than Obama, who proved the alternatives to be unworkable, foolish, and politically untenable. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney must be smiling broadly.

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