American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony D. Romero on the upcoming trial of detainees suspected of participating in the 9/11 attacks:
The Obama Administration is making a terrible mistake by prosecuting the most important terrorism trials of our time in a second-tier system of justice. Whatever verdict comes out of the Guantánamo military commissions will be tainted by an unfair process and the politics that wrongly pulled these cases from federal courts, which have safely and successfully handled hundreds of terrorism trials,” Romero said.
“The military commissions were set up to achieve easy convictions and hide the reality of torture, not to provide a fair trial. Although the rules have been improved, the military commissions continue to violate due process by allowing the use of hearsay and coerced or secret evidence. The American people have already waited far too long for justice for the 9/11 attacks, and the administration’s use of the military commissions means that justice will never truly be achieved, in the eyes of our nation or the rest of the world.
As news of the forthcoming military trial has made headlines in recent days, there has been a predictable distortion disseminated, which is old but now being renewed. As the ACLU post says “In April 2011, the Obama administration reversed a 2009 decision to try the men in federal court and decided instead to try them at Guantánamo using military commissions that have been broadly criticized.” There is an implication that Obama was forced to adopt a two-tiered system of justice because Congress made him. In one sense – regarding this specific trial which includes Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others – that is true. But even then, Obama had not objected to military trials in principle: he had already adopted a system of military courts and indefinite detention for many other Guantánamo detainees. And anyways, a principled stand in favor of real due process in civilian courts would have been just that – and would not have been compromised by the political winds.
At the time of the Obama administration’s renewed embrace for military trials, Glenn Greenwald noted that there is “absolutely no reason, other than to pervert justice and enable easy and due-process-free convictions, to create a separate tribunal rather than use our extant judicial processes.” Actually, that is not precisely true. One other reason to embrace a two-tiered justice system is to satisfy and submit to – and thus become party to – a blind, hysterical, mob clinging to delusional fears about giving due process to suspected terrorists.