I woke up this morning to the long-awaited news that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is going to be brought to New York and prosecuted in federal court for the crime of being the mastermind of a massive and deadly conspiracy known as September 11, 2001.
Eight years, two months, and two days. That’s how long it took for the government to get its fucking shit together to do the thing that needs to be done. After all the pleas, complaints, arguments, legislation, counter-legislation, and Supreme Court decisions in the battle to determine whether we will demonstrate our belief in the criminal justice system by using it to address the most important crime that has happened on American soil in the last fifty years, or descend into a shadow world of justice inhabited by those we claim are our sworn enemies, we have decided on the path of doing things on the up-and-up.
I’m partial. As a lawyer, I believe in the criminal justice system. Fervently. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be one, or at least I’d be a transactional lawyer making big bucks helping companies buy and sell other companies. That or giant tracts of land. Apparently this makes me different from Republican senators, congressmen, and former administration officials, many of whom, despite being lawyers, seem not to think very much of justice. Instead they insisted that it would be too dangerous. That subjecting those who had done the very worst to regular ol’ trials presented some small possibility that a guilty verdict would not result, and therefore couldn’t possibly be done.
But that’s just it. The possibility of failure, the possibility that the evidence will all fall apart, or be thrown out if it’s tainted or no good, that witnesses will recant or prove unreliable, that the defendant will be acquitted—all those possibilities—make it the only kind of justice worth having.
Let’s not get hasty, though. Congress, scared and apparently superstitious about allowing anyone who has set foot in Guantanamo to then set that same foot on precious America (even though, for all purposes, Guantanamo is America), passed a law that required the President give Congress 45 days’ notice before bringing any detainee here (I wrote about my strenuous objections to the “not on our soil” rhetoric previously here). So KSM will have to wait for his first day in court.
This is what we need—what we’ve always needed, to start the process of healing from what happened eight years ago. Not further blood spilled on the ground, not dark prisons in undisclosed locations, not secret trials existing under a fake framework which is against everything we’ve strived for over the last two hundred years.
We need a trial. And I think this one’s gonna be good.