Success in our Courts!

It’s a success!  Ahmed Ghailani was convicted of conspiracy to destroy US property. We can afford to ignore those other 284 counts of which he was acquitted.

Ahmed Ghailani was a participant in the two Al Qaeda US Embassy bombings in Africa in 1998.  In those 2 bombings, 224 people were killed (including 12 Americans) and nearly 5000 (according to the AP) were wounded.  He was being tried because he collected a lot of the materials used in one of the blasts—including tanks, a truck, and TNT.  His cell phone was used as a detonator.  There were phone records.  A detonator and traces of the explosive were hid in his armoire.

His defense attorneys successfully painted him as a naïve, innocent errand boy who didn’t know the real reason he was making all of those cash purchases or hiding explosives in his drawers.  Prosecutors were evidently not able to convince the jury that he was knowingly a member of the plot.

Iit might have been a little more awkward for the jury to accept the defendant’s naiveté if they had heard the testimony of Hussein Abebe, a Tanzanian miner.  He would have testified that Ghailani purchased 5 crates of TNT the week before the blast, with cash.  (Uncontradicted by the Hussein Abebe, Ghailani testified that he bought some stuff for washing horses.)

The judge barred Hussein Abebe as a witness because Ghailani gave Abebe’s name to CIA interrogators under enhanced interrogation techniques.  It wasn’t waterboarding, but one of those other techniques—maybe sleep deprivation—that the left keeps insisting only result in unreliable information.  The judge said that the prosecution would never have found out about Hussein Abebe any other way than by “coercive interrogation.”  Therefore, his testimony was not allowed.

But Ghailani was convicted on 1 count.  What a success!

The reason that I know it is a success is not the result.  It is because of the statements by our Department of Justice and others in our legal system.

I knew it before the trial results when Holder told the US public that he’d told prosecutors, “Failure is not an option.”  Isn’t it nice to know that the outcome could not be a failure because Eric Holder said so.

I knew it last month when Holder was asked (for the zillionth time) in October if our court system was the place to handle these cases, and he responded, “At the conclusion of the Ghailani case I’ll ask you to ask me that question again and I’ll give you the same answer and that our three courts are fully capable of handling these matters.”  (Uh, Mr. Holder.  Could you just pretend that you were asked again and give us that same answer?)

I knew it when I found out that the presiding judge, Judge Kaplin, said when dismissing the jurors, “You deserve a lot of credit.  You have demonstrated also that American justice can be delivered calmly, deliberately and fairly, by ordinary people — people who are not beholden to any government, including this one.”  I wish that he, knowing what testimony he barred, could have praised their ignorance, too.

I knew it because after the verdict, Ghailani’s lawyer, Peter Quijano, told reporters the verdict was a “reaffirmation that this nation’s judicial system is the greatest ever devised.”

Finally, I knew it because Matthew Miller, a Department of Justice spokesman, said “We respect the jury’s verdict and are pleased that Ahmed Ghailani now faces a minimum of 20 years in prison and a potential life sentence for his role in the embassy bombings.”

Patrick Leahy said last year, “By trying them [Gitmo Detainees] in our federal courts, we demonstrate to the world that the most powerful nation on earth also trusts its judicial system — a system respected around the world.”  Please notice that it is by trying them, not convicting them, that we succeed.  I’d say that’s a pretty low bar for judging success, but it works because we now have success.  I wonder how the survivors of the blast and relatives of those that were killed respect our judicial system right now?  I wonder if the survivors will at last be able to get the images of charred, bloody, dismembered bodies out of their heads, knowing that our justice system has worked?

The internet is abuzz with widely divergent opinion and speculation with respect to this verdict.  It is widely accepted on both sides that Hussein Abebe’s testimony would have been enough to convict on many more counts.  Many focus on the revisited question:  Should the trials be in military tribunals instead?  Hundreds if not thousands of bloggers say yes.  Just as many are claiming that the “coerced” divulgence of a name would have barred Hussein Abebe’s testimony even in a military court.  I don’t know who’s right.  I don’t care.  I don’t think the right issue is being examined by most of the commenters.

Our legal system was designed to protect people living in society from being unfairly convicted.  All of the defaults, including “innocent until proven guilty,” are set up based on the assumption that it is better to let 100 guilty go free than 1 innocent be convicted.  This is not the correct system to use to deal with Islamic terrorists who have declared war on us.  The acts they are committing are not crimes, they are acts of war by enemy combatants.  Have the military figure out if they are enemy combatants, but a trial on the merits is inappropriate in any forum.  I agree with Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law professor and former Bush-era Justice Department official.  He wrote early Thursday, the day after this verdict, on the Lawfare blog.

“Ghailani helped conduct a major terrorist operation on behalf of a group with which we are at war. Military detention was designed precisely to prevent such soldiers from returning to the battlefield.  It is a tradition-sanctioned, congressionally authorized, court-blessed, resource-saving, security-preserving, easier-than-trial option for long-term terrorist incapacitation. And this morning it looks more appealing than ever.”

Amen, and pass on the acquittals.

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Published in: on November 18, 2010 at 11:33 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] Success in our Courts! « Silencetoolong's Blog […]

  2. […] more from the original source: Success in our Courts! « Silencetoolong's Blog Related Posts:Success in our Courts! « Silencetoolong's Blog You have demonstrated also that […]

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