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Obama’s Military Tribunal Flip-Flop

March 5th, 2010 at 5:41 pm David Frum | 13 Comments |

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So President Obama will retreat on a civilian trial for Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. Good call. But also a reminder of how expensive his original bad decision has been. The past 15 months could have been used to write a statute governing the treatment of captured enemy illegal combatants. The administration’s reckless determination to try international terrorists as domestic criminals wasted that time. So we are left in 2010 in the same lawless limbo as in 2001. This was admittedly unfinished business left over from the Bush years. Granted. But it remains unfinished in the Obama years out of legalism and hubris.

Military tribunals are not a perfect answer. But as the president has belatedly discovered — as he could have discovered a lot earlier if his priority had been problem-solving rather than scoring points off his predecessor — they were the best available answer.

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13 Comments so far ↓

  • teabag

    Bush tried 300 Terrorists successfully in criminal court. He prosecuted 2 in Military tribunals only one of which is still in prison.

    So Bush was entirely wrong in his policy yes?

  • sinz54

    teabag:

    Those 300 were not tried for TERRORISM.
    They were tried for violating immigration laws, money-laundering laws, and other minor criminal charges.

    I’m getting tired of having to follow you from discussion to discussion, setting the record straight each time after you’ve distorted and falsified it.

    You’re not worth it.

  • teabag

    Note the date Sinz, Bushco certainly thought they were terrorists. Were they wrong?

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    FRIDAY, JUNE 23, 2006
    http://WWW.USDOJ.GOV
    CRM
    (202) 514-2007
    TDD (202) 514-1888
    Department of Justice Examples of Terrorism Convictions Since Sept. 11, 2001

    Below are examples of some of the convictions obtained by the Department of Justice in terrorism cases since Sept. 11, 2001:

    Hassan Moussa Makki (Eastern District of Michigan) – In September 2003, Hassan Makki pleaded guilty to racketeering charges and providing material support to Hizbollah in conjunction with the Mohammed Hammoud case in Charlotte, NC. Makki was sentenced to 57 months in prison.

    Richard Reid (District of Massachusetts) – British national Richard Reid was sentenced to life in prison following his guilty plea in January 2003 on charges of attempting to ignite a shoe bomb while on an airplane from Paris to Miami. Reid was subdued by passengers on the Dec. 22, 2001 American Airlines flight before he could ignite the explosives.

    John Walker Lindh (Eastern District of Virginia) – Lindh pleaded guilty in July 2002 to one count of supplying services to the Taliban and a charge that he carried weapons while fighting on the Taliban’s front lines in Afghanistan against the Northern Alliance. Lindh was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

    Lackawanna Six: Shafal Mosed, Yahya Goba, Sahim Alwan, Mukhtar Al-Bakri, Yasein Taher , Elbaneh Jaber (Western District of New York) – Six defendants from the Lackawanna, New York area pleaded guilty to charges of providing material support to al Qaeda, based on their attendance at an al Qaeda terrorist training camp. The defendants were sentenced to terms ranging from seven years to 10 years in prison.

    Portland Cell: Maher “Michael” Hawash, October Martinique Lewis, Habis Abdullah Al-Saoub, Patrice Lamumba Ford, Ahmed Ibrahim Bilal, Muhammad Ibrahim Bilal, Jeffrey Leon Battle (District of Oregon) – The defendants in the so-called “Portland Cell” case pleaded guilty to criminal charges ranging from laundering money to conspiracy to supply goods to the Taliban, to seditious conspiracy. Ford and Battle were each sentenced to 18 years in prison. The charges resulted from an investigation into the defendants’ training for preparation to fight violent jihad in Afghanistan.

    Earnest James Ujaama (Western District of Washington) – Pursuant to a cooperation agreement, Earnest James Ujaama was sentenced to two years in jail in February 2004 following his guilty plea on a charge of conspiring to supply goods and services to the Taliban in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

    Sayed Mustajab Shah, Ilyas Ali, Muhammed Abid Afridi (Southern District of California) – In April 2006, Muhammed Abid Afridi was sentenced to 57 months in prison on one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin and hashish and one count of providing material support to terrorists. Afridi was arrested in September 2002 and indicted by a federal grand jury in October 2002 along with co-defendants Sayed Mustajab Shah and Ilyas Ali for their involvement in an international drugs-for-weapons program. Shah’s sentencing is scheduled for June 2006. Ali was sentenced to 57 months in prison.

    Carlos Ali Romero Valera, Uwe Jensen, Edgar Fernando Blanco Puerta, Elkin Alberto Arroyave Ruiz, Carlos Adolfo Romero-Panchano, Fanny Cecilia Barrera De-Amaris, Adriana Gladys Mora (Southern District of Texas) – As part of Operation White Terror, Carlos Ali Romero Valera, Uwe Jensen, Edgar Fernando Blanco Puerta, and Elkin Alberto Arroyave Ruiz were convicted on charges of supplying material support to a terrorist organization (the United Self-Defense Forces (AUC) of Colombia) through a weapons-for-drugs deal. In December 2005, Fanny Cecilia Barrera de Amaris and Carlos Adolfo Romero-Panchano were convicted on charges of conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization. Both were extradited in 2004 and pleaded guilty. Barrera de Amaris was sentenced to five years and one month in prison while Panchano was sentenced to three years. Adriana Gladys Mora was convicted in January 2004 of conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization and distributing cocaine.

    Iyman Faris (Eastern District of Virginia) – In October 2003, Iyman Faris was sentenced to 20 years in prison for providing material support and resources to al Qaeda and conspiracy for providing the terrorist organization with information about possible U.S. targets for attack. Faris pleaded guilty in May 2003.

    Virginia Jihad: Masoud Ahmad Khan, Seifullah Chapman, Hammad Abdur-Raheem (Eastern District of Virginia) – In the Virginia Jihad case, Masound Ahmad Khan was convicted in March 2004 of eight charges including conspiracy to levy war against the United States; providing support to the Taliban and conspiracy to provide support to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET); and gun violations. He was later sentenced to life in prison. Hammad Abdur-Raheem was convicted on three charges of providing material support to LET, firearms and conspiracy charges, and later sentenced to 52 months in prison on each count. Seifullah Chapman was convicted on five counts, including conspiracy to provide material to LET and weapons charges, and later sentenced to 780 months in prison.

    Virginia Jihad: Aatique Mohammed, Donald Thomas Surratt, Khwaja Mahmood Hasan, Yong Ki Kwon, Randall Todd Royer, Ibrahim Ahmed Al-Hamdi (Eastern District of Virginia) – Also in the Virginia Jihad case, these six defendants pleaded guilty to various charges, including conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and weapons violations, and were sentenced to terms ranging from 46 months to 20 years in prison.

    Virginia Jihad: Ali Al-Timimi (Eastern District of Virginia) – Al-Timimi was convicted in April 2005 on all 10 charges brought against him in connection with the “Virginia Jihad” case. Al-Timimi, a spiritual leader at a mosque in Northern Virginia, encouraged other individuals at a meeting to go to Pakistan to receive military training from Lashkar-e-Taibi, a designated foreign terrorist organization, in order to fight U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Al-Timimi was sentenced to life in prison.

    Abdurahman Alamoudi (Eastern District of Virginia) – In October 2004, Alamoudi was sentenced to 23 years in prison for his activities in the United States and abroad with nations and organizations that have ties to terrorism. In September 2003, Alamoudi was arrested at Dulles International Airport and pleaded guilty in July 2004 to three federal offenses: violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act; false statements made in his application for naturalization; and a tax offense involving a long-term scheme to conceal from the IRS his financial transactions with Libya and his foreign bank accounts and to omit material information from the tax returns filed by his charities.

    Hamant Lakhani (District of New Jersey) – British national Hemant Lakhani was convicted by a federal jury on charges of attempting to sell shoulder-fired missiles to what he thought was a terrorist group intent on shooting down U.S. airliners. Lakhani was sentenced to 47 years in prison.

    Mohammed Junair Babar (Southern District of New York) – In June 2004, Mohammed Junaid Babar, a naturalized American originally from Pakistan, pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiring to provide material support to Al Qaeda. He is awaiting sentencing.

    Lynne Stewart, Mohammed Yousry, Ahmed Abdel Sattar, (Southern District of New York) – In February 2005, a federal jury in Manhattan convicted attorney Lynne Stewart, Mohammed Yousry, and Ahmed Abdel Sattar on charges including providing, and concealing the provision of, material support or resources to terrorists. The defendants were associates of Sheikh Abdel-Rahman, leader of the terrorist organization Islamic Group (IG), who is serving a life sentence for his role in terrorist activity, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

    Rafil Dhafir, Osameh Al-Wahaidy, Ayman Jarwan (Northern District of New York) – In February 2005, a federal jury convicted Dhafir of participating in a conspiracy to unlawfully send money to Iraq and money laundering. Dhafir was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Al-Wahaidy and Jarwan pleaded guilty to charges in the same case.

    Mohammad Ali Hasan Al-Moayad, Mohammed Moshen Yahya Zayed (Eastern District of New York) – In March 2005, a federal jury convicted Al-Moayad, a Yemeni cleric, and Zayed on charges of providing and conspiring to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda and Hamas. Al-Moayad was sentenced to 75 years in prison; Zayed was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

    Zacarias Moussaoui (Eastern District of Virginia) – In April 2005, Zacarias Moussaoui pleaded guilty to six charges against him related to his participation in the September 11th conspiracy. In May 2006, Moussaoui was sentenced to life in prison.

    Basman Elashi, Bayan Elashi, Ghassan Elashi, Hazim Elashi, Ihsan Elashi (Northern District of Texas) – In April 2005, a federal jury convicted Basman, Bayan and Ghassan Elashi, and the Infocom Corporation, on charges of conspiracy to deal in the property of a specially designated terrorist and money laundering. The activities were related to Infocom, an Internet Service provider believed to be a front for Hamas. Hazim and Ihsan Elashi were also convicted in the same case and were sentenced to 66 months and 72 months in prison, respectively.

    Mark Robert Walker (Western District of Texas) – In April 2005, Walker was sentenced to two years in prison for aiding a terrorist organization. He was indicted in December 2004 and pleaded guilty to two counts of attempting to make a contribution of goods and services to a designated terrorist organization (Al-Ittihad Al-Isiami in Somalia).

    Carlos Gamarra-Murillo (Middle District of Florida) – In August 2005, Gamarra-Murillo was sentenced to 25 years in prison for engaging in the business of brokering and exporting defense articles without a license and providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization (FARC). Gamarra-Murillo was charged in April 2004 and pleaded guilty in February 2005.

    Ahmed Omar Abu Ali (Eastern District of Virginia) – In November 2005, a federal jury convicted Ali on all counts of an indictment charging him with terrorism offenses, including providing material support and resources to al Qaeda, conspiracy to assassinate the President of the United States, conspiracy to commit air piracy and conspiracy to destroy aircraft. Ali was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

    Uzair Paracha (Southern District of New York) — Paracha was convicted in November 2005 on charges of providing material support to al Qaeda. Evidence at trial demonstrated that Paracha agreed with his father and two al Qaeda members to provide material support to al Qaeda by, among other things, trying to help an al Qaeda member re-enter the United States to commit a terrorist act.

    Hamid Hayat (Eastern District of California) – On April 25, 2006, a federal jury in Sacramento convicted Hamid Hayat of Lodi, California, of one count of providing material support or resources to terrorists and three counts of lying to the FBI in a terrorism investigation. The jury found that Hayat provided material support to terrorists by attending a jihad training camp overseas, and that he attempted to conceal his training from the FBI. Hayat faces up to 39 years in prison; sentencing is scheduled for July 2006.

    Ali Asad Chandia and Mohammed Ajmal Khan (Eastern District of Virginia)On June 6, 2006, Ali Asad Chandia was found guilty on charges of conspiracy to provide material support to Lashkar e Taiba (LET). This case resulted from the continuation of the Virginia Jihad investigation. All four counts of the indictment rested upon the premise that Chandia and Mohammed Ajmal Khan conspired to provide, and did provide, material support to LET both before and after it was designated as a foreign terrorist organization. Chandia met Khan, a senior official and procurement officer for LET, at an office of that organization in Pakistan in late-2001. Khan traveled to the United States in 2002 and 2003 to acquire equipment for Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Chandia assisted him in these efforts both times.

    A jury found Chandia guilty of three of the four counts of the indictment.Chandia’s sentencing is set for August 18, 2006. Khan is serving a nine-year sentence in the UK on terrorism charges; the U.S. will seek his extradition at the conclusion of that sentence.

    ###

    06-389

  • SFTor1

    Sinz: ouch.

    My gripe of the day: why does a change of direction have to be a flip-flop? Is this so hardwired into the likes of DF that he can’t just applaud an administration that isn’t too stubborn to reconsider? Imagine if W had reconsidered Iraq, for starters.

  • COProgressive

    David wrote;
    “The past 15 months could have been used to write a statute governing the treatment of captured enemy illegal combatants. The administration’s reckless determination to try international terrorists as domestic criminals wasted that time.”

    Why waste time with the Military Tribunals when we have a perfectly good Criminal Court system? we can dick around with who is and who is not a “enemy illegal combatant” or we can just try individuals caught breaking our laws. No “special” laws or courts, need apply.

    I’d like to point you to the case of Najibullah Zazi, a man from here in Denver, who did his shopping here and was on his way to meet with accomplices’ to bomb the NYC subway. Zazi was picked up here in Denver along with his father and taken to NYC to stand trial.

    But a trial wasn’t needed as Zazi pleaded guilty last week and will be sentenced soon.

    I want someone to give me justification other than keeping individuals from “lawyering up” and the opportunity for the Jack Bauer’s in our “intelligence” networks from using their baser “skills”.

    As to the trial of KSM in Lower Manhattan, well, that’s a little crazy. Not because it would be a criminal trial, but because as a former NYC guy the traffic and mess a trial would have down there would be nuts. I would like to see them keep the trial in NYC, but move it to Governor’s Island. Security could be kept tight and it would have little to no effect on the day to day lives of the folks in NYC.

    That way the city he helped attack would be the city that gave him a fair trial……………..then hung him. I think it’s called “Closure”.

  • kevin47

    “My gripe of the day: why does a change of direction have to be a flip-flop? Is this so hardwired into the likes of DF that he can’t just applaud an administration that isn’t too stubborn to reconsider? Imagine if W had reconsidered Iraq, for starters.”

    I agree with everything other than the implication that Bush had not reconsidered Iraq. He changed strategies throughout the effort.

    “Why waste time with the Military Tribunals when we have a perfectly good Criminal Court system?”

    Meh. I could just as easily ask why we should have a criminal court system when we have perfectly good military tribunals.

    The KSM affair has demonstrated that our criminal court system is not perfectly good. The administration was only willing to utilize it with the understanding that a jury would yield the desired result. So it’s not a perfectly good system, nor is it the ideal system for dealing with military detainees.

    “I want someone to give me justification other than keeping individuals from “lawyering up” and the opportunity for the Jack Bauer’s in our “intelligence” networks from using their baser “skills”.

    By interrogating immediately after the fact, we deprive the detainee of the comfort that comes with a constitutional fallback. That said, “lawyering up” is part of the process of usurping control.

  • mickster99

    Frum, lets drop the flipflop flapping. I want you to tell me what a Frum controlled government would look like. And please don’t tell me I have to buy one of you’re books.

    Who would be taxed and a what rates. What would be taxed? Estates, capital gains, giant corporations, really rich people, small business, poor people, people in the middle, etc. So lets start easy where’s the Frum government getting revenue?
    Once the easy money starts rolling would you would you eliminate all the cabinet positions, abolish the EPA, OSHA, FEMA. Abolish the FED, the SEC. Then solve the deficit problem by just defaulting on all our debts.

    Ring the DOD dinner bell for 5 more carrier groups, 10 more attack submarines, another 30 combat brigades, a couple armor and mechanized division for another try at a land war in asia.

    And your social agenda. Would you criminalized gays behavior? Reinstitute mandatory prayer in school, all children be converted to 700 Club Chrisitans with Pat Roberts our official spiritual leader. Perhaps establishing thousands of Ronald Reagan parks as mandatory in all cities with populations greater that 300.

    Certainly getting the american people of the giant teat of government by immediate elimination of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security might be wise choice.

    You’ll definitely need some muscle to accomplish your goals. You’ll certainly be able to field combat-ready proven personal mercenary army formerly named BlackWater to be ready to take on and and all communist nazi maoists that don’t get the message. Gitmo’s not just for arabji jihadi’s.

    I can see Glen Beck at State and Bill Kristol (not the funny one) at SecDef. Sara Palin will not hold elected office but would function as Grand Prophetess and have the power to put the kibosh on anything she doens’t like as well as designate any person or organization as enemies of the state subject to immediate military tribunals then either death by hanging of life at Gitmo. Say good bye Dave Letterman and Acorn.

    Ok some of my ideas may too conservative for you but please lets hear what the world be like when the Followers of Frum and taken power.

  • mickster99

    FrumsWorld: Try ‘em in military tribunals. Cheap, quick, efficient. Don’t really need lawyers. We know they’re guilty. Just a show trial then hang ‘em. write a statute governing the treatment of captured enemy illegal combatants but David doesn’t offer us any legaleze to complicate things. Perhaps a wink of an eye (a bold Palinesque gesture I might add) and then the short drop and quick stop of a cheap and legal hanging. So Obama wasted all this time and we’re still in the same limbo that we were in in 2000. David doens’t waste time describing that he means by limbo. But we can be sure it’s not the one they do in Jamaica, man! This administration is learning to late due to their own monstrous hubris and trying childishly to score points off their predecessor that military tribunals are the way to go. David is really saying screw the criminal just system, the supreme court, we’ll have show trials aka military tribunals then proceed with the hangings. See the problem is Obama is clean not a problem solver like david. He just show boats and waste time and money and clearly demonstrates his hubris. In the Frum Government David would be decisive. And save time and money. He’s got the perfect answer. And David knew so clearly 15 months ago. Is the man not prescient? It’s not his fault that Obama is just too busy showboating to see it so obvious, so simple but that’s hubris for you. So score a big 1 for the Follower’s of Frum. I await with abated breath for this magnificient leader (Frum not Obama) to turn his powerful infallible mind on solving the next thorny issue. I hope he moves urgently from saving us from the impending doom of Socialism or the Maoists moles in Obama’s government. Go David. I’m raising a Molsons to you even as I type.

  • TerryF99

    Can anyone answer the question,

    If Military Tribunals are so great, why did the last administration use them only twice and use the normal court system hundreds of times?

    Also if they had all those hundreds of guilty terrorists in gitmo, why did they just let them go free and back to being terrorists again?

    And as Teabag illustrated above it was not for low level operatives.

  • sinz54

    mickster99: Cheap, quick, efficient. Don’t really need lawyers. We know they’re guilty. Just a show trial then hang ‘em.
    I’ll drink to that.

  • sinz54

    teabag & COProgressive:

    You confirmed my point.

    None of these defendants was even charged with committing an act of mass murder by terrorism, as KSM is being charged.

    KSM is being charged with the war crime of deliberately targeting thousands of civilians. That’s going to earn him the death penalty, which again did not apply to these other defendants.

    (I know you left-wingers don’t believe in the death penalty either)

  • TerryF99

    So Sinz

    Richard Reid who was on board a plane with explosives and only failed because the bomb did not go off is not a terrorist according to you, yet KSM who was nowhere near any of the 911 sites is?

    And according to you the penalty given is an indicator that one is a terrorist and one is not. That is just dumb, since when do we work backwards from the sentence to decide who is a terrorist and who is not.

    If you are saying that KSM is a war criminal then he should be tried in the Hague. In a war crimes court not a civilian court or a military tribunal. However by elevating these people beyond “criminal” you are doing exactly what they want, you legitimize them before their peers and followers. You make them a Martyr and that is exactly what they wish for, why should we enable them?

    I agree that KSM and any other terrorist should get a fair trail and be subject to whatever sentence the court decides and that includes the death penalty. You seem really keen on labels and painting everyone who you give a particular label to with blanket beliefs. Do all Conservatives believe in Abortion? Or preemptive war? Of course not. So please don’t be so partisan by labeling all Left leaning individuals as anti the death penalty, it is just no the case.

  • kevin47

    “Richard Reid who was on board a plane with explosives and only failed because the bomb did not go off is not a terrorist according to you, yet KSM who was nowhere near any of the 911 sites is?”

    They are both terrorists, and if we had the opportunity to try Richard Reid in a military court, I’m sure Sinz would have supported the effort. But the system was not in place to do so.

    “If you are saying that KSM is a war criminal then he should be tried in the Hague.”

    Why? We have our own tribunals.

    “However by elevating these people beyond “criminal” you are doing exactly what they want, you legitimize them before their peers and followers.”

    How so? He succeeded in killing thousands of people. He is already as legitimate as you can get. I fail to see how trying him in a civilian court (or the Hague) delegitimizes him. I also disagree with the insinuation that how a terrorist is perceived abroad should influence the manner in which we punish him. What if they decide to make a hero out of anyone who is imprisoned (which they do… remember the Lockerbie bomber?).

    “I agree that KSM and any other terrorist should get a fair trail and be subject to whatever sentence the court decides and that includes the death penalty.”

    What if a jury finds him innocent? Should he be set free?