A pre-9/11 approach to terror

Both President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday defended their bizarre decision to try five Islamic terrorists tied to the 9/11 attacks in a federal court in New York City.

“I have every confidence that the nation and the world will see him for the coward that he is,” Mr. Holder, speaking to the Senate Judiciary Committee, said of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

The notion that trying these men in civilian court and according them all the constitutional protections of American citizens will help us curry favor with foreign elites is an ongoing theme of Mr. Obama, Mr. Holder and other supporters of the plan.

But there are other concerns that this administration has apparently failed to consider, not the least of which is the high-profile forum the president seems intent on providing these foreign mass murderers.

If this is some sort of showcase for the American judicial system, what happens when attorneys for the terrorists seek to get the charges tossed on technical grounds? These men have been detained at Guantanamo Bay for as many as seven years. Were they read their Miranda rights? What about their Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial? How about their Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment?

Obviously, these Islamo-fascists were subject to harsh interrogation techniques. Did the authorities respect their Fifth Amendment right to due process and against self-incrimination? Did they ensure that each had an attorney present when being questioned? Shouldn’t most of the information gained at Gitmo be ruled inadmissible?

Surely, any U.S. court when confronted with an American citizen who had been subjected to such treatment would have no choice but to dismiss all charges. Didn’t the president decide that these killers merit exactly the same protections? On what grounds can we legally hold them, then?

Perhaps a federal judge will rule that the constitutional guarantees didn’t apply until the decision was made to try the men in civilian court. If so, what message are we sending to the world about our judicial system? That we make up the rules on a whim? That the real purpose here is to put on show trials complete with pre-ordained verdicts?

If the president, Mr. Holder and their advisers have debated any of these questions, they aren’t acting like it. Nor do they seem to understand that we are fighting a war, not against common street thugs, but against an enemy that pays no heed to military norms or standard wartime procedures.

Mr. Holder seemed visibly agitated Tuesday when told that one of his predecessors had accused the administration of adopting a “pre-9/11” approach to terrorism. He denied it.

But, in fact, that’s precisely what they’ve done in this case. Americans can only pray that it doesn’t backfire.

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