Saturday, October 9, 2010

Faisal Shahzad Convicted By Federal Court–Not Military Tribunal

Faisal Shahzad was sentenced to life imprisonment in a U.S. District Court in Manhattan for trying to blow up his car Times Square. Those who have little faith in our justice system should realize that trials in federal courts, as opposed to military justice, can indeed result in convictions for terrorists. In fact, they have a better record. From a recent editorial in The New York Times:

When Mr. Shahzad was arrested, and later given a Miranda warning, the “tough on terrorists” crowd screamed about coddling and endangering the country’s security. They didn’t stop complaining, even after Mr. Shahzad cooperated with investigators and entered a guilty plea with a mandatory life sentence. All of this happened without the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York Police Department breaking laws or violating Constitutional protections.

Now let’s check in on Guantánamo Bay, where President George W. Bush opened an illegal detention camp, authorized torture and abuse, and then set up military tribunals engineered to produce guilty verdicts no matter how thin or tainted the evidence...

There are more than 170 inmates left in Guantánamo. Only 36 have been referred for prosecution, some very dangerous men. Forty-eight are in a long-term detention that is certainly illegal. Almost all the rest are in limbo while the Obama team tries to figure out what to do. The chances are dimming every day that prisoners like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, will ever be brought to justice.

...This is the choice: Justice in long-established federal courts that Americans can be proud of and the rest of the world can respect. Or illegal detentions and unending, legally dubious military tribunals. It is an easy one.

Clyde Haberman wrote in the Times about the superior record of civilian trials:

Opponents insist that only military commissions are fit for Mr. Mohammed and his ilk. Yet civilian trials have a clear edge thus far in effectively handling terrorism and national security cases.

The Center on Law and Security keeps close track. Of 437 cases that have arisen since Sept. 11,...257 have been resolved in court, with 218 of them ending in convictions or guilty pleas. Military commissions, in contrast, have produced a mere four convictions, including those of two men who received short prison terms and were soon set free.

The most recent military case involved a Guantánamo Bay detainee who pleaded guilty in July to having conspired with Al Qaeda. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Compare that with the 86 years given to Ms. [Aafia] Siddiqui two weeks ago. So much for the civilian courts’ being soft on terrorists.


Michael The Molar Maven said...

What bothers me is that the allure of a military tribunal is that it has the implication of being "macho", while our court system is "dovish" and "wimpy", and we seem to value "rock 'em, sock 'em" in this country. So what if a few innocent people get convicted (as long as it's not me, of course) - This is war, you know. Heaven forbid that we should allow due process to people who we already know are guilty. Trials are so tiresome and expensive. Edward Meese said it best: "... You don't have many suspects who are innocent of a crime. That's contradictory. If a person is innocent of a crime, then he is not a suspect." So, explain to me again, Why do we need a court system at all?

Jeff Tone said...

That quotation of Meese says it all. The next step: "If you're a suspect, you're convicted."