clap clap blog: we have moved

Tuesday, July 15, 2003
"No, we don't really feel like respecting the justice system, now that it comes down to it."

The Justice Department said today that it would defy a court order and refuse to make a captured member of Al Qaeda available for testimony in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui.

The department acknowledged that its decision could force a federal judge to dismiss the indictment against Mr. Moussaoui, the only person facing trial in the United States in connection with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.


Bush administration officials have said for months that if Mr. Moussaoui's indictment were dismissed, his prosecution would almost certainly be moved to a military tribunal, where Mr. Moussaoui would be expected to have fewer rights to gather testimony from witnesses like Mr. bin al-Shibh.


"The government has established the damage to national security that such a deposition would cause," the department said. "The deposition, which would involve an admitted and unrepentant terrorist (the defendant) questioning one of his Al Qaeda confederates, would necessarily result in the unauthorized disclosure of classified information."


The government has said Mr. bin al-Shibh is being interrogated at a secret place overseas.

So there's a few things I don't get about this.

First: uh, is this legal? It was my impression, perhaps misguided, that since military tribunals were a part of PATRIOT II, which hasn't been passed, that particular justice-hack wasn't an available option yet. Are they just going to go ahead with it anyway? What judge would be able to stop it? (And yeah, the fact that Z. decided to act as his own lawyer here ain't helping matters a bit.)

Second: call me crazy, but I don't see the danger. We have suspect X, under constant guard, and suspect Y, under constant guard, neither of whom have, y'know, lawyers. So even if they do get together and trade info about how they're planning on blowing up the Dairy Queen in Elkhart under the guise of an innocent discussion about taco stands in the Mission, how are they going to get the info out? Is Z. going to spill it in court in such a way that the, uh, al Qaeda operatives in the courtroom (?) act on it? Let's give all that the benefit of the doubt. Let's assume that al-Shibh gives Z. info and that Z. manages to communicate that in such a way that it can get to the ears of a sleeper cell. Even if that were possible, which seems, at best, highly unlikely, these guys haven't had any new information since they've been captured, and whatever info they had before capture was presumably already communicated. So what's the fucking point? Sure, there's a small, unlikely risk, but there's always a risk (the criminal could grab the baliff's gun and shoot up the courtroom, etc.), and in this case, that risk just ain't big enough to bypass the entire American judicial system. These people aren't masterminds--they're operatives, and I doubt anything they could say would be more or less likely to trigger a terrorist attack that anything coming from someone not in custody of the US government.

Give the nutcase his trial. It's way better for the health of the Republic. Secret, military trials would be much more efficient and better for security; the fact that we have, instead, an open judicial system is one of the sacrafices we make in a democracy.