Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Big Apple, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed And Mayor DeStefano

New York has turned its bloody thumbs down to the prospect of a civil trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) in the city he terrorized several years ago.

Attorney General Eric Holder, with a wink and a nod from President Barack Obama, wanted to try KSM in New York, but the city fathers nixed the deal, partially on grounds of traffic congestion. It seemed as if the New York venue was set, but late objections were raised by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sen. Charles Schumer, among other Big Apple politicians, and the president, or perhaps Holder, relented and began to look around for venues on the United States mainland less congested than New York.

There were, of course, muted political reasons involved. Elections are looming in New York, as elsewhere in the country, and Obama’s notion that terrorists should be tried in civil rather than military courts is not quite as popular in the former home of the Twin Towers as it is with Holder or, for that matter, Mayor of New Haven John DeStefano.

According to a New Haven Registar report:

“Mayor John DeStefano Jr., whose City Hall office is next door to the federal courthouse on Church Street, was willing to consider the idea. ‘I wouldn’t preclude it if the federal government wanted to talk about it,’ he said. He said he hasn’t gotten a call, however.

“’I think there’s a civic responsibility to try these guys, they ought to be tried, and I think the community has some responsibility to assure a fair trial,' the mayor said.”
The patriotic sacrifices DeStefano is prepared to make on behalf of the citizens of New Haven called forth some spirited objections in the comment section of the paper. (I’ve corrected some minor errors in the texts. Passionate responses to a call for patriotic sacrifice are sometimes grammatically deficient.)

“Founding Father X” wrote, “President Obama and henchman Holder have actually stated publicly that the defendants are guilty and will be tried and convicted. It's unbelievable. Any defense attorney should be able to have all charges thrown out based on the Obama-provided sixth amendment protections. Like Obama says, the law is the law, and we are a nation of laws. IF we are, then release the innocent until proven guilty defendants...can't get a fair trial now. Too bad they didn't stick to the enemy combatant logic.”

“Mr. Cheech,” wrote, tongue in cheek, “New Haven would be an ideal location for a trial (of) terrorists. Violence occurs on a daily basis (in) a city open to illegal residents, a Mayor who is not concerned for its residents safety and police chiefs who only stay on the job part time. What else can expect? Terrorists would fit the mold perfectly and the Yale law school would aid their defense with vigor. Go for it, Mayor!”

And “Texjr,” who seems fond of capitalization, registered his profound disapproval: “Is Mayor CRAZY, or just seeking PR credits? THIS IS A DUMB IDEA; to have a civil trail (sic) that you know he isn't going to walk (to) and to have it in New Haven.... What ever happen to a midnight hanging in some remote area?”

While it is not evident from the monikers used by the commentators precisely how many are citizens of New Haven, not all of them, one supposes, are disgruntled Republicans hoping to capitalize on the mayor’s political bumbling.

New Haven, after all, is a fairly congested city, particularly around the area bordering on Yale University where such a trial might be held. Some Yalies, one imagines, would not wish to be disturbed in their studies by any ensuing collateral damage. In recent testimony before congress, top security heads, asked whether they thought an attempted attack on the mainland was possible, replied that it was “certain.”

Two other recent events are certain to disappoint DeStefano. Legislation supported by some prominent Democrats has surfaced that would deny the president funds to prosecute terrorists in civilian courts.

And Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a reliable partisan who has stood shoulder to shoulder with DeStefano on matters important to Democrats, now running for U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s seat, has issued a disappointing opinion on the matter: “My belief is that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should be tried in a military tribunal. He is an enemy combatant who attacked our nation – a foreign national with training and direction by foreign terrorist groups, supported by foreign governments. The most important goal in his and every prosecution is to effectively try, convict and punish terrorists and enemy combatants, presumably by execution. Other reasons for using a military tribunal in this case relate to admissibility of evidence and protection of secret and valuable intelligence. His horrific terrorist attack – arguably a war crime – is clearly one appropriate for a military tribunal.”

DeStefano, no doubt, will survive these blows with his reputation intact.
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