A number of recent articles have provided interesting commentary on the upcoming trial of alleged 9-11 plotter Khalid Shheikh Mohammed in an American federal court:
- Slate: The Real Price of Trying KSM
- StratFor: Deciphering the Mohammed Trial and A Terrorist Trial in New York City
Given everything that has already happened, it is very hard to see how this can have a good outcome. The trial cannot be fair – since there have been so many rights and due process violations, and no impartial jury can be found – and the precedent seems highly likely to make bad law.
Slate contributor David Feige is probably right in summing up the likely outcome:
In the end, KSM will be convicted and America will declare the case a great victory for process, openness, and ordinary criminal procedure. Bringing KSM to trial in New York will still be far better than any of the available alternatives. But the toll his torture and imprisonment has already taken, and the price the bad law his defense will create will exact, will become part of the folly of our post-9/11 madness.
Given the situation they inherited, the Obama administration may not be able to do any better. Still, it is worrisome to think what the future consequences of this may be.
[Update: 12 February 2010] Due to the opposition he has encountered, Obama has abandoned plans to give KSM a civilian trial in New York. Disappointing.