Monday, February 11, 2008

The September Six

According to a recent story in the BBC, six men involved with the September 11 attacks will finally be sent to trial.

The court they are destined for however is not a US civilian court, but instead a military tribunal.

Although Brig General Thomas Hartmann, a head legal adviser at the Pentagon says that there will be no hidden trials and that "It's our obligation to move the process forward, to give these people their rights", there is still great doubt as to the transparency of the matter.

The law is being challenged by two of the prisoners that contend exactly that: they will be deprived of the right to due process. A representative of Mohammed al-Qahtani corroborated this worry by stating that they would create "show trials".

To complicate matters, the CIA may bring in testimony that was corrupted by newly revealed illegal torture methods like waterboarding. Centre for Constitutional Rights in New York executive director Vincent Warren said: "These trials will be using evidence obtained by torture as a means to convict someone and execute them and that is absolutely abhorrent to what we believe in here in America.''

Since Khalid and company would likely be easily convicted in a standard civilian criminal court the question remains why the US would need to conduct these trials based on coerced testimony under extreme duress and in special military tribunals. That is, unless the US has something more to hide.

1 comment:

Montey Bukler said...

Seems to make sense from the administration's standpoint. As far as strategy is concerned, there's nothing unusual or wrong about having something to hide.

Although morality really isn't the issue here, the public tends to forget about these guys once they've been executed and no longer have any chance for release - is anyone still talking about whether Saddam got a fair trial? Second, better to execute these guys now than risk their release under a Democrat POTUS and/or increased public opprobrium as more CIA torture allegations come forward. Third, what the US has to hide is the question of whether or not - and if so, how - the US extracts information from combatants.

This third reason is especially potent, given Al Qaeda's demonstrated nature as a bureaucratic institution capable of learning and adapting its operations to counteract US efforts. The administration has enough information coming out in the inevitable leaks that have come out in the past - such as the New York Times piece on FISA - and will continue to come out in the future.

A public trial would undoubtedly become an in-depth, drawn out revealing of CIA interrogation and information-gathering methods - exactly what the administration wants to avoid.