February 21, 2010

Jack Kelly Sunday

This one'll be short, I promise.

Jack Kelly's column today at the P-G starts with a non sequitur, a red herring, a distracting factoid:
Americans didn't like it when the Obama administration announced in November it would try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian court in New York City. A CNN poll indicated only 34 percent of respondents agreed with the president. Nearly twice as many (64 percent) said KSM should be tried by a military commission.

"Even a majority of Democrats and liberals say he should be tried by military authorities," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
There's more to that CNN report:
According to a Quinnipiac University poll also released Wednesday morning, 59 percent want September 11 terror suspects tried in military courts, with 35 percent saying they should face trial in civilian courts. And nearly 7 out of 10 people questioned feel that terror suspects should not receive all of the constitutional protections afforded by a civilian trial.

The Quinnipiac survey suggests a partisan divide, with Democrats split, while nearly 3 out of 4 Republicans and 6 out of 10 Independents supporting military trials. The poll also indicates that 3 out of 4 voters think the suspect who allegedly tried to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day be tried as an enemy combatant rather than as an ordinary criminal, but by a 52 to 42 percent margin, they approve of the FBI's advice to the suspect of his right to remain silent.
Huh? They approve of the FBI saying terrorists have a right to remain silent? You'd never guess that from Jack's diversionary column.

Why is this a diversion? Coincidentally, it came up at this weekend's CPAC. Take a look at Congressman Bob Barr getting booed (Barr goes on at about 2:15 in):
The media covered the story that he was booed for saying that waterboarding is torture (which it is and the Obama administration still has an obligation to prosecute the tortures committed by the Bush Administration). But just before that, he was defending the idea of civilian courts rather then military tribunals being used for the trials. Why would he do that?

Because the law's already in place for it.

Rawstory has a summary:
Debating the issue of whether terrorist suspects should be read Miranda rights and should have access to civilian courts, Barr argued that politicians are being allowed "to have their cake and eat it too" by choosing whether to place defendants in civilian courts or military tribunals. Barr said the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 provided the framework for how to deal with terrorist suspects, and said government officials should stick to that law.

"Either we believe, as lawyers, as lawmakers and as citizens, that there is value in laws, that laws that are passed have meaning and have a purpose, or we dont," Barr said.

"But I don't think that we should go down the path of allowing our leaders to have their cake and eat it too. There's nothing magical about military tribunals, they don't have necessarily better lawyers than in the civilian sector. I think I have more faith in our US attorneys, who are non-political, than my colleagues on the other side of this debate do," Barr continued.

"We can try them, we should try them. That is precisely what out law provides for. And the first time we're faced with a situation we say, 'Oh, we want to have them to go to the military, let them torture them for a while.' It's not advanced interrogation techniques. Waterboarding is torture."
So whether a only third of Americans polled think that the evildoers should be tried in a civilian court, it's beside the point.

Barr (a former USAttorney, by the way) said it: There's nothing magical about military tribunals. We're a nation of laws. Using an "easier" court system to better guarantee a conviction is, frankly, beneath us. We're better than that. Or at least we should be.

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