When the Obama administration announced in November its intention to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and several other 9/11 plotters on trial in a civilian court in downtown Manhattan, the decision was met with derision on the right.
There were two parts to that decision which were inextricably intertwined. First, was the decision to have a civilian trial, rather than a constitutionally acceptable military tribunal (under rules promulgated the prior spring by the Obama administration); second, was the location in downtown Manhattan, closest to the scene of the crime.
I say these justifications were inextricably intertwined because the decision was political from the get-go, to prove to the world that we could treat this case as any other criminal trial. And any other criminal trial would take place in the venue where the crime was committed (except in rare circumstances, such as where it was impossible to get a fair jury).
The concerns from the right about both the decision to hold a civilian trial and to locate that trial in downtown Manhattan were met with scorn by the left-blogosphere as a caving in to terrorists. Glenn Greenwald wrote (emphasis mine):
[T]he Right’s reaction to yesterday’s announcement — we’re too afraid to allow trials and due process in our country — is the textbook definition of “surrendering to terrorists.” It’s the same fear they’ve been spewing for years. As always, the Right’s tough-guy leaders wallow in a combination of pitiful fear and cynical manipulation of the fear of their followers. Indeed, it’s hard to find any group of people on the globe who exude this sort of weakness and fear more than the American Right.
People in capitals all over the world have hosted trials of high-level terrorist suspects using their normal justice system. They didn’t allow fear to drive them to build island-prisons or create special commissions to depart from their rules of justice.
When Sarah Palin issued a statement criticising the decision both as to holding a civilian trial and holding that trial in Manhattan, Spencer Ackerman demanded to know Who’s Afraid Of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed?
What’s an actual insult to the victims of 9/11 is the idea that America is not strong enough to withstand the blatherings of a mass murderer….
Glenn Greenwald, in a post that surpasses his usual high standards, diagnoses her very well: she’s given in to terrorism.
Looks who’s surrendering to terrorism now:
The Obama administration on Friday gave up on its plan to try the Sept. 11 plotters in Lower Manhattan, bowing to almost unanimous pressure from New York officials and business leaders to move the terrorism trial elsewhere.
This must mean that the vast right-wing, soft-on-terrorism conspiracy controls New York, which necessarily will result in both Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand being defeated in November, to be replaced by Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.
Or maybe it means that common sense has prevailed, at least as to trial location.