Attorney General Eric Holder‘s announcement last Friday that Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four co-defendants will be tried in civilian courts in New York City produced the predictable barrage of fulminations from Republicans (about how the sky will absolutely fall on our heads).
But what has attracted next to no comment is just how few of the Guantanamo detainees we propose to actually bring to justice (any kind of justice, civilian or military), even at this stage, almost a year into President Obama‘s term in office.
…senior government lawyers have said there is next to no prospect of bringing more than 20 more to trial in any tribunal, civilian or military.
What is really strange, though, is the reason being advanced for not bringing other detainees to trial:
Administration officials acknowledge in interviews that considerations of security and politics will bar the great majority of Guantanamo Bay detainees from any courtroom. Scores will be confined until a third country agrees to accept them, and perhaps two dozen more are expected to be held indefinitely without charge.
Considerations of security and politics? Really?
The trials of the great majority of Guantanamo Bay detainees — even by a military tribunal — would present more harrowing security issues than the trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed?
And I’m not even sure what “considerations of politics” actually means, but the great majority of Guantanamo Bay detainees cannot be brought to trial without precipitating a political firestorm bigger than the one resulting from the decision to try KSM and his co-defendants in NYC?
And that’s really the best argument “Administration officials” can advance for why two dozen Guantanamo detainees must be held indefinitely without charge?
(Note also that, for both these reasons — considerations of security and politics — the great majority of this great majority of Guantanamo Bay detainees will simply be released to other countries? Not, if past experience is any guide, to be detained, but simply to be set free?)