The Holder Hangover

January 31, 2010

The Holder Justice Department has made several serious mistakes in its handling of jihadi detainees: treating the Detroit Pantybomber as a common criminal with constitutional rights; ordering a trial in Federal court for the plotter of 9-11, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad; and the end of the CIA interrogation program are among several. Power Line’s Scott Johnson looks to the source of these errors and find it not, where many would put it, in the Attorney General’s office, but in President Obama’s misguided view of constitutional rights:

Speaking at a town hall meeting in Pennsylvania during the presidential campaign in June 2008, Barack Obama addressed the Supreme Court’s Boumediene decision granting Guantanamo detainees the right to challenge their confinement through habeas corpus proceedings in federal court. Obama asserted that the “principle of habeas corpus, that a state can’t just hold you for any reason without charging you and without giving you any kind of due process — that’s the essence of who we are.” He explained:

“I mean, you remember during the Nuremberg trials, part of what made us different was even after these Nazis had performed atrocities that no one had ever seen before, we still gave them a day in court and that taught the entire world about who we are but also the basic principles of rule of law. Now the Supreme Court upheld that principle yesterday.”

Obama’s comments derive from what I facetiously call “the higher wisdom” that fueled his campaign and that is now operative in his administration. Attorney General Eric Holder perfectly reflects it.

In designating the mastermind of 9/11 and his co-conspirators who are detained in Guantanamo for trial in federal court in Manhattan, cloaking them with the rights of American citizens under the Constitution of the United States, Holder sought to give them their “day in court.” He also sought to “t[each] the entire world about who we are but also the basic principles of rule of law.”

The only appropriate response to Obama’s campaign comments on Boumediene is: “Not true.”

Scott then proceeds to dismantle the President’s use of the Nuremberg hearings as a precedent, exposing the supposed “constitutional scholar’s” ignorance of legal history. From this fundamental error, that war criminals and enemy combatants should be treated as ordinary defendants with the full protection of the Bill of Rights flows every other dumb decision Obama and Holder have made.

Sadly, there are many.

And they will come back to haunt us.

RELATED: Scott links this in his piece, but I wanted to point out here an excellent essay by Thomas Sowell that describes the administration’s decision to try terrorists in criminal court as insanity.


Eric Holder lies

November 26, 2009

I don’t have any proof of that, of course, but I find it absolutely incredible -as in, “I don’t believe it”- that he didn’t tell the President about his decision to move Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to New York City for trial in a federal court until after the President was in the air, heading for Asia:

Second, we have learned since the announcement that Holder apparently did not consult Obama before deciding to bring the Sept. 11 terrorists back to Ground Zero. No further evidence is necessary that Holder regards the war on terrorism as a law enforcement matter. In a decision with obvious national security implications, the attorney general consulted with neither the commander in chief nor the secretary of defense. He employed a process that might be more appropriately applied to the trial of a mafia kingpin or a serial killer.

And what a process. In an interview on Jim Lehrer’s NewsHour, Holder described consulting with Justice and Defense department prosecutors and staffers. The rest of the interview deserves to be quoted at length:

Lehrer: Did you run [the decision] by President Obama?
Holder: Just informed him of the decision….
Lehrer: So you just told him what your decision was; you didn’t say, “What do you think about it, Mr. President?”
Holder: Nope. Told him last night, or had relayed to him what I was going to do last night while he was on Air Force One on his way to Asia.
Lehrer: Did you talk to anybody outside the government?
Holder: I talked to my wife —
Lehrer: Yes? Okay.
Holder: — about what she thought. And I actually talked to my brother, who’s a Port Authority police officer who served —
Lehrer: Oh, is that right? Yes.
Holder: — in New York, New Jersey, and who lost friends and colleagues on 9/11 in the towers. And I talked to them about what — was it appropriate to bring it in New York, the symbolic significance of it, the possibility of getting a good and fair, detached jury.

Michael Gerson, the author of the article, rightfully calls this “embarrassing.” And he also justifiably excoriates Holder for his miserable, incompetent performance in front of a Senate committee explaining his decision and rips him a new one for his mind-boggling decision to give jihadists a public stage in Manhattan, not to mention the security risks such a trial poses for the city

But, I’m sorry, I don’t agree with Gerson’s acceptance of Attorney General Holder’s story. The man may not give a damn about voting rights, he may be corrupt as hell, he may be a far-Left ideologue bent on a witch hunt against the CIA, but he is not so stupid as to be unaware of the political risks to his boss, the President, in any move to try KSM in civilian court – especially just blocks from Ground Zero. It’s inconceivable. Does he really expect us to accept his word that he only consulted his wife and brother, and then only about jury selection and symbolism?

How dumb does he think we are?

No. In my opinion, he consulted the President before this decision was announced, and Obama gave his blessing, with the understanding that Holder takes the fall if (and when) something goes wrong. Already the polls are running massively against this move, and Obama’s own numbers are tanking, probably partly as a result of this. Holder is the designated sacrificial lamb donkey. He’ll take the heat for this decision, but the real responsibility is President Obama’s.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I suppose it is possible that Holder is telling the truth about how he made the decision and when he told Obama, but what does that tell us? First, that Holder really is incredibly stupid, if this is true. Anyone in the corridors of power in DC who could not see the ramifications of this move has a cranial density far surpassing that of lead. Second, it means President Obama is both incompetent and weak. His chief law enforcement deputy makes a decision of this magnitude without any significant consultations with other departments or the president, and then blindsides Obama with it after he’s off on a major foreign trip? And Obama didn’t fire him on the spot?? Is he too weak to fire his own Attorney General or too clueless to see the mess Holder dumped on him? Regardless, if Obama was not consulted and didn’t override Holder on the spot when he found out, it makes the President look very bad.

Thus, I still lean toward the first explanation (Obama knew and approved), if only because the implications of the second are in their own way scarier.


Bad Idea

November 18, 2009

Charles Krauthammer on why trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian Federal court in New York City is a bad idea:


What could go wrong?

November 14, 2009

The big news yesterday was the decision by Attorney General Eric Holder that Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the confessed, proud mastermind of the 9-11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 of our people and foreign guests, would be tried in a civilian court in New York City, just blocks from Ground Zero:

The Obama administration said Friday that it would prosecute Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, in a Manhattan federal courtroom, a decision that ignited a sharp political debate but took a step toward resolving one of the most pressing terrorism detention issues.

The decision, announced by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., could mean one of the highest-profile and highest-security terrorism trials in history would be set just blocks from where hijackers for Al Qaeda destroyed the World Trade Center, killing nearly 3,000 people.

Mr. Holder said he would instruct prosecutors to seek death sentences for Mr. Mohammed and four accused Sept. 11 co-conspirators who would be tried alongside him.

I can’t decide if this is some sort of continuation of Holder and his boss’s war against the Bush Administration and the CIA, monumental stupidity and incompetence on their part, or both. Do these two geniuses realize that trying KSM and his buddies in Manhattan invites every jihadi in the world to strike the city again, either to rescue them or avenge them? Do they comprehend what a circus and a farce this will become? This is the ultimate act of reverting to a pre-9/11 mentality, which for the length of the 90s assured us that law enforcement was the proper venue for handling terrorists.

And we saw what that bought us.

This is depressing and disturbing on so many levels, I can’t even work up a good rant. Others however, had plenty to say. Let’s start with my hero of that terrible day and first choice for President in 2008, Rudy Giuliani:

Part 1

Part 2

Let me repeat Hizzoner’s trenchant observation: the decision to try KSM in New York is “frighteningly incompetent.”

Michael Mukasey was George W. Bush’s last Attorney General and had been the presiding judge at the trial of the Islamic terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center in 1993. If anyone should know why the civilian court system is not competent to handle cases of jihadist terrorism, it is he:

The difficulty of trying terror suspects through civilian courts, he said, is that the discovery process, the public presentation of evidence, and other elements of a trial “could turn a criminal proceeding into a cornucopia of information for those still at large and a circus for those in custody.”

He pointed out that when capturing the enemy combatants, pieces of information “were not gathered, nor was evidence gathered, on the assumption that they would be presented in a federal court.”

There would also be tremendous security issues involved with making sure that courthouses, jails, the judge and jury, were all safe.

“It would take a whole lot more credulousness than I have available to be optimistic about the outcome of this latest experiment,” Mukasey said at the conclusion of his formal remarks.

Somehow, I think Judge Mukasey was understating his misgivings. (via Hot Air)

Finally, former Governor Sarah Palin weighed in on her Facebook page, calling it an “atrocious decision:”

It is crucially important that Americans be made aware that the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks may walk away from this trial without receiving just punishment because of a “hung jury” or from any variety of court room technicalities. If we are stuck with this terrible Obama Administration decision, I, like most Americans, hope that Mohammed and his co-conspirators are convicted. Hang ‘em high.

I’m with ya, Governor.

LINKS: Fausta calls it a suicidal move. Jimmy Bise wonders if Obama is committing political suicide. Baseball Crank, a Manhattan attorney, is seeing red. The Weekly Standard explains why this is a very risky proposition for the Democrats. Connecticut’s lone honorable Senator politely told Attorney General Holder and President Obama to think again. Debra Burlingame, via William Kristol, reminds us of what Khalid Sheikh Muhammad said when he was captured.