Eric Holder's Baffling KSM Decision
Notice the interesting parts of this article that cover the 10,000 signatures and the estimated cost for the first year of this trial.
Eric Holder's Baffling KSM Decision
The attorney general's Senate testimony this week did nothing to reassure the families of 9/11's victims.
By DAVID BEAMER
On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee met to question Attorney General Eric Holder about his decision to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others in criminal courts rather than military tribunals. As the father of Todd Beamer, who died on United Airlines Flight 93, I was able to attend that hearing. What transpired caused me great concern and shook my confidence in our current administration.
The committee, chaired by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), displayed the division in our country not only visually—the Democrats were seated on the left and the Republicans on the right—but in every aspect of the proceedings. I expected that some members would agree with Mr. Holder and that others would have challenging questions about his decision. What I did not anticipate was the level of partisanship showed by the majority party. It seemed clear to me and other family members of victims that party loyalty is trumping concern for America's security interests.
In his opening remarks, Attorney General Holder acknowledged that these defendants could have been brought to trial in civilian court or before military tribunals. But he made the argument that trying them in our criminal courts would restore the integrity of our judicial system. He assured us that the trials would be quick, that the safety of New Yorkers would be paramount, that classified information would not be revealed, that the evidence was overwhelming, and that justice would be served.
Then he said that the USS Cole attackers would be tried in military courts since they attacked our military. So how does Mr. Holder categorize the Pentagon? Inexplicably, he offered up the body count of 9/11, the fact that civilian deaths outnumbered military ones, as a rationale for his decision.
Then the Republican members proceeded to ask Mr. Holder thoughtful questions. Some examples:
How can we be assured that these enemies will be found guilty? Given that criminal courts are now the presumed venue for those captured on the battlefield, will soldiers need to read them their rights at the time of capture? Since you wish to make exceptions on a case-by-case basis to the presumed civil venue, don't all those captured need to be read their rights and have the opportunity to remain silent? Won't this venue expose intelligence to our enemies? Can our classified information really be secured? Can we in fact predict how the judge will rule? If these people are brought into the country will they get additional rights under immigration law? What if they claim asylum?
The attorney general seemed bewildered in the face of these inquiries. Recurring themes in his responses included "I think," and "I can't imagine," and "I am not an expert in immigration."
Has our attorney general not considered these issues, or imagined the possible unintended consequences that will arise from his historic decision? It certainly seemed that way. If he had, he would have had better answers.
A second shocker: Mr. Holder said that he and his boss had not spoken in person about this decision. This matter only involves upholding the constitutional rights of Americans, establishing a precedent with battlefield impact, and the safety and security of our citizens in a time of war. What are the criteria to make something a priority with President Barack Obama? How can it be that this matter didn't make the cut?
The Democrats used much of their questioning time to heap praise upon Mr. Holder. They all repeated the same trope: We'll show the world that America can conduct these trials openly in criminal courts. And we'll be successful, even as we convey rights to the defendants that are not warranted.
Since when has "show the world" been a primary objective?
No thoughtful questions from the majority party regarding this decision were forthcoming. Their questions mostly addressed other matters. They discussed overcrowding in our prisons (too many drug criminals being sentenced), asked why none of the $500 million in appropriations have helped the rape-kit processing backlog, and inquired about when recommendations for additional staff would be presented for confirmation. Their lack of attention to the pressing matter at hand suggested apathy.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) did ask a question about how much the trials will cost. Clearly there will be expense incurred if this does go to trial in New York City. The early, and by no means complete, estimate is that it will cost $75 million for the first year. Mr. Schumer did not express any concern about the costs involved but only asked the attorney general for assurance that all would be covered by federal funds. This question was promptly and explicitly answered in the affirmative by Mr. Holder. After all, this is a rather modest amount by Washington standards.
Our enemies must be thrilled. We are willingly handing them an opportunity to inflict economic harm on New York City, keep their cause in the headlines, gather new intelligence, create new terror strategies, stimulate recruiting, celebrate new-found rights, and foist a fresh round of pain and suffering upon their victims.
This decision is September 11, the sequel. It is my hope that Mr. Holder will reconsider.
A final observation: During the proceedings a young lady, dutifully attentive, sat with a stack of paper about 15 inches high on her lap. The papers contained names, single spaced, of some 100,000 people who signed a letter in opposition to this decision. This young woman, Jill Regan, lost her dad, Donald J. Regan, FDNY of the Bronx, who died trying to save others on 9/11. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Al.) asked that those names be entered into the record at the end of the session. It was agreed, but by that time the chairmen and most of the Democrats were already gone. I grieved for her—and for all of us—anew.
Mr. Beamer is the father of Todd Beamer, who died on United Airlines Flight 93 on 9/11.