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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Obama Proposes Swift Execution of Alleged 9/11 Conspirators

In a leak that seems designed to gauge public opinion — and that of lawyers and other relevant parties around the world — anonymous officials in the Obama administration have told the New York Times about a proposal, in draft legislation to be submitted to Congress, which, as the Times put it, “would clear the way for detainees facing the death penalty [in Guantánamo] to plead guilty without a full trial.”

Such a statement can only set alarm bells ringing, of course, as it clearly refers to the five alleged co-conspirators in the 9/11 attacks — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Walid bin Attash — and it indicates that, in order to avoid having to disclose distressing details of the torture to which these men were subjected, during their long years in secret CIA prisons, the Obama administration is wondering if allowing them to fulfill their stated aim of pleading guilty and becoming martyrs might be an effective way to dispose of what is probably the thorniest problem inherited from the government of George W. Bush.
It’s tempting to take this view, of course, because the Obama administration has already demonstrated its unwillingness to thoroughly repudiate its predecessor’s brutally innovative approach to detention and trials in terrorist cases; firstly by announcing its intention to revive the system of trials by Military Commission (the much-criticized “terror courts,” conceived by Dick Cheney and his legal counsel David Addington, which were mired in incompetence and corruption throughout their seven-year history), and secondly by proposing to push for legislation authorizing the use of “preventive detention” for 50 to 100 of the remaining 239 prisoners. As I explained in an article three weeks ago, “Fundamentally, Guantánamo is a prison that was founded on the presumption that the Bush administration’s “new paradigm” [in the “War on Terror”] justified “preventive detention” for life,” and “to even entertain the prospect that a third category of justice (beyond guilt and innocence) can be conjured out of thin air without fatally undermining the principles on which the United States was founded is to enter perilous territory indeed.”


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