In Nov 2009 New Yorkers were granted an unwanted reminder of the traumatic events of 9/11 when Eric Holder announced the prosecution of KSM and other terrorists would be held in NYC only a few blocks away from where the towers fell. Without consulting local or state officials, Congress, the military, families of the victims or anyone else who might be alarmed at the unnecessarily provocative decision, Holder insisted lower Manhattan was “the venue in which we were most likely to obtain justice for the American people”. Considering the end of a rope meant the same to a terrorist no matter where they were hung, many questioned why it was necessary to subject an already traumatized city to what was sure to be a media circus.
The decision was an affront to those who had personally witnessed the events of 9/11. While most of us watched it on TV, it wasn’t our lungs that had to breathe the smoke filled the air or our skyline that had been forever changed by that fateful day. To ignore the feelings of New Yorkers betrayed Holder’s greater sympathy for the terrorists than he had for his fellow citizens.
A Feb 2010 Quinnipiac University poll demonstrated how out of touch Holder was when 68 percent of NYC voters said the government should abandon plans to hold the trials in Lower Manhattan. By a 59% to 39% margin they preferred military tribunals to civilian court and 68% believed the terrorists didn’t deserve the constitutional protections afforded to civilians.
The folly of Holder’s position was demonstrated in Nov 2010 with the nearly botched trial Ahmed Ghailani, the first Gitmo detainee to be tried in civilian court by the Obama administration. Charged with being connected with the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people including 12 Americans, Ghailani nearly walked away a free man when he was acquitted of more than 280 charges and found guilty of only one count of conspiracy to destroy government buildings. Over 200 people dies and the DOJ couldn’t even make a single count of murder stick.
The prosecution’s star witness, whose name was elicited from Ghailani while he was held at a secret CIA prison, was not allowed to take the stand because of the judge’s ruling. Evidence gained from defendants using harsh interrogation techniques is understandably not allowed in civilian trials, but wouldn’t pose a problem in a military tribunal. Because of the nature of the enemy and the precautions our nation has taken to defend itself, it only makes sense to send the terrorists to a place where they will not only get a fair hearing, but the American people would also get a fair shake at having these evil men face justice.
After months of trying to defend Holder’s decision Obama finally threw in the towel in March 2010 when he ordered the resumption of military trials at Guantanamo Bay.