Terror Trials and U.S. Courts

Terror suspect Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was found guilty of conspiracy by a New York jury for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa. He was found innocent of the more than 280 charges also thrown at him. (280!). While I have no dog in this fight, it is interesting to watch this legal experiment unfold to the joy of some and horror of others.

There has been tremendous criticism about moving the GITMO detainee trials out of the military system and into the U.S. courts. All sides have whined before and after the trial. The nuances of the rules of evidence can be a rainmaker for the accused or send him away for life.

The judge in the case would not allow prosecutors to introduce a crucial witness because this person was involved in using coercive investigative techniques on the defendant. Such testimony is said to be admissible in a military tribunal. Many maintain the White House decision to move these cases to U.S. courts has failed miserably. One case does not a failure make, but precedents have been set (gauntlets thrown) and this latest legal journey may be an indicator of future prosecutorial disasters.

Constitutional and U.S. legal standards can be a real tank ditch when prosecuting a guy suspected of killing Americans in Kenya and Tanzania where few of these rules apply. Was this justice? Is the GITMO option vengeful?

Experimenting with the bad of the bad seems unwise. Certainly the case for military tribunals to shift back to Guantanamo Bay will continue. It was a tough election year, boding well for the shift back off shore.

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