Updated with correction: The original post took A.G. Holder to be celebrating the reversal of plans to send the terror suspects through the federal system. In fact, referring to the delays in the military trial procedure, Holder was suggesting this week that his initial decision to push for a federal trial had been correct.
So the locus of the A.G.’s boast is in fact stranger still. In stating that KSM and fellow suspects “would be on death row as we speak,” Holder tacitly defended this country’s vile and archaic use of capital punishment.
Original Post: The trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) and four other men suspected of plotting the 9/11 terror attacks has thus far seemed little for the U.S. to boast about in terms of justice. The war court proceedings at Guantánamo Bay have been delayed by endless pretrial legal wrangling; as Amy Davidson of the New Yorker commented, “following the proceedings can be a bit like watching over someone’s shoulders when they play SimCity and forget an essential utility, causing the whole grid to crumple.”
Nonetheless, on Monday Attorney General Eric Holder, addressing the eventual call to send the terror suspects through the ad hoc military-tribunal system, as opposed to trying the men in a New York federal court. He said the suspects, had they gone through the federal system, “would be on death row as we speak.” He added, “Not to be egocentric about this, But that I was right.”
There’s broad consensus that Holder’s reversal of his 2009 decision to try the suspects in federal court was largely political. Holder himself said Monday, “We unfortunately did not go down that road for reasons other than those connected to the litigation, I think reasons largely political, I think the opposition was largely political in nature and I think this is an example of what happens when politics gets into matters that ought to be simply be decided by lawyers and by national security experts.”