Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Trial of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani - This is how we win the War on Terror

This trial, in a civilian court, is a very important step for the United States in fighting the War on Terror. I believe that if we are to win this war we must establish rules and methods for fighting it that are rooted in the principles on which this nation was founded. Principles spelled out in the constitution upheld by our courts and laws. 

That is exactly what the Obama administration was trying to do when it pushed for the trial to be held in a civilian court, and that is exactly what Judge Kaplan was doing when he ruled the testimony of a witness for the prosecution inadmissible on the grounds that the witness was only discovered when Ghailani named him after being tortured in a secret CIA detention facility. 
"The court has not reached this conclusion lightly," Kaplan wrote, barring the testimony. "It is acutely aware of the perilous nature of the world we live in. But the constitution is the rock upon which our nation rests. We must follow it not only when it is convenient, but when fear and danger beckon in a different direction." (Quote taken from WaPo article)
The War on Terror does not exempt us from our duty to uphold human rights and human dignity. Nothing gives us the right to torture a person, under any circumstances, and Judge Kaplan was right to disallow the testimony. I certainly wish that the witness had been discovered through a fair legal process and was allowed to testify, but that that was not the case. I admire the courage to disallow the testimony given the circumstances.  But despite the fact that the unfortunate actions that occurred in the interrogation of Ghailani made the witness inadmissable, we did get a conviction. 

"Conspiracy to blow up an embassy is a serious conviction," said Tom Malinowski, Washington director for Human Rights Watch. "I hope the conclusion people draw from this is that this is the way to get swift and sure justice."He added: "The original sin here is torture. It would have haunted a military trial, too, with likely the same result. The only difference is that in this courtroom, Ghailani was convicted with legitimacy and finality." (Quote taken from WaPo article)
I agree with these statements wholeheartedly. The "legitimacy and finality" of the trial will be felt all around the world. Citizen of every nation can throw their support behind this process. While Guantanamo and everything it represents isolates us, this trial gains the United States allies in the War on Terror. There were many very important precedents set by this trial. If we can hold to the course of action we have begun we will turn the tide in this war. 
Judge Kaplan issued two major pretrial rulings that allowed Mr. Ghailani’s prosecution to go forward and could ease the way for future detainees, like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the professed 9/11 mastermind, to be tried in federal court. In May, the judge rejected a motion by Mr. Ghailani’s lawyers seeking dismissal of charges on grounds that his torture while in C.I.A. custody was outrageous government misconduct. And in the summer, the judge ruled that Mr. Ghailani’s years of detention before being brought into the civilian system had not violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial. (Quote taken from NYT article)
We can take this case and build on it. Not only using the precedents set in this trial to try and convict other Guantanamo detainees, but also to develop a code of conduct for how to handle newly captured terrorists. This sentiment was articulated well by the wife of one of the men killed in the bombing Khailani helped perpetrate.
“I can’t help but feel that the evidence in the case would have been stronger had Ghailani been brought to trial when he was captured in 2004.” (Quote taken from NYT article)
Had we been more committed to a fair and transparent system of justice (without torture) when Ghailani was first captured, it is likely that evidence could have been used to get additional convictions. I am proud to be an American, a citizen of a country with legal system capable of carry out such a complicated and heavy legal maneuver as this trial. I believe we are headed in the right direction, and I hope we stay the course.

Post Script:
The Washington Post chose to lead with the line below in the opening paragraph, which is indicative of a disturbing and all too common ploy for many news outlets recently.
The outcome, a surprise, seriously undermines - and could doom - the Obama administration's plans to put other Guantanamo detainees on trial in U.S. civilian courts.
This statement is inflammatory, contributes nothing to the understanding of the events that they are reporting, and is based purely on the opinion of the author. The article goes on to provide lots of good information, from which I draw the opposite conclusion. So why lead with that sentiment? I found the doomsday headlines and news stories after the November 2nd elections equally inaccurate and unhelpful. We, as readers, would be very happy with your article if you simply remove this ridiculous editorial from the reporting of news. End of rant.

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