From now on, hesitate before you call the Obama administration timid. Its decision to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other alleged 9/11 conspirators in a civilian court in New York City, rather than before a military commission in a far-off place, is brave. It is also unwise.
This is not for the reasons emphasised by most critics – that a civilian trial is better than these men deserve, or that it will give them a platform for propaganda. The real problem is that the decision involves a needless risk, while failing to improve the legitimacy of the US government’s approach to terror trials.
Ideally, suspected terrorists should be tried under the same rules as people accused of other serious crimes. The horror of the offence is irrelevant. This should be obvious, but to judge by some of the attacks on Eric Holder, the attorney-general staking his career on the issue, it is not. The idea that a civilian trial is simply too good for the likes of KSM is indefensible, and that is all one can say.
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