Fierce criticism erupted Thursday over the split verdict on terrorism charges against the first Guantánamo detainee to be tried in civilian court, casting new doubts on the Obama administration’s goal of trying cases against other prisoners in the civilian criminal justice system.See that? They euphemized "torture" to "coercive interrogations." When they do it it's torture; when we do it it's "coercive interrogations." Damned lib-rul media!
The defendant, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, was convicted Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan of conspiring in the 1998 embassy bombings in Africa, and he faces a sentence of 20 years to life in prison. But Republican critics roundly denounced the fact that a jury acquitted him on all but one of more than 280 charges — including every murder count — as a sign that such terrorism detainees should be prosecuted only before a military commission.
That portrayal of the verdict as a disaster was hotly contested by the administration and other supporters of civilian trials. They argued that the system had shown that a terrorist could be convicted and sentenced to a stiff prison term even after a judge excluded evidence tainted by coercive interrogations during the Bush administration.
So what's the problem?
Many observers attributed any weakness in the prosecution’s case to the fact that the Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of United States District Court in Manhattan, who presided over the trial, refused to allow prosecutors to introduce testimony from an important witness, who was discovered after interrogators used coercive techniques on Mr. Ghailani.So evidence based on torture was deemed inadmissible. That, of course enraged the law and order types on the right. Military tribunals wouldn't have this problem, they said.
But proponents of civilian trials noted that in a footnote of his order rejecting the witness, Judge Kaplan pointed to restrictions against evidence obtained by torture in military trials and strongly suggested that a military judge would have excluded the testimony, too.So, apart from the immorality of Bush's torture, apart from the illegality of Bush's torture, there's another reason why torture is bad. Bad, bad, bad.
From Andrew Sullivan:
The only thing to say about the remarkable acquittals on almost all counts for a tortured prisoner of war is that torture renders convictions all but impossible. By throwing aside all norms for prisoner treatment and setting up an apparatus of systemic torture, Bush and Cheney destroyed critical evidence that could have been used by the prosecution to convict. [emphases added.]In their zeal to "git 'em!" Bush and Cheney made things much much more complicated. They could have just followed the law but they didn't. They broke it. And now the only alternative is detaining the accused terrorists indefinitely without trial. Another insult to our Constitutional system.
This is the Bush/Cheney legacy: torture followed by indefinite detention. So much for the rule of law.