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  • OPINION: Terror trials in Manhattan

    Posted by Chris Conley

    Camp Delta, Guantanomo Bay Cuba

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) “They were at war with us, but we weren't at war with them.” That was the core finding of the 9-11 commission which studied the reasons behind the attacks in New York and Washington.

    This was the report that formally put us on a war footing. It's been the dominant idea ever since. Fighting Al Qaeda and other extremists would be primarily a military action, not a police action. Terrorists were not considered rogue criminals. They were enemy combatants. It's why we have terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay instead of Rikers Island.

    Today's announcement from the Obama Administration that the first terror trials will take place in Manhattan Federal Court in New York is a major policy shift. Our civilian courts are where criminals are prosecuted, not enemy combatants in a war.

    The decision is fraught with legal problems. Does a U.S. court have jurisdiction over a defendant who was arrested overseas? What about a suspect who never set foot in America? Will any confessions obtained at Gitmo be allowed? Have these defendants already been denied their “right” to a speedy trial? What about evidence obtained by our military (without warrant)? What about the defendant’s right to discovery? What about the grand stage for jihad that our courtroom is about to be turned into? And what happens if somehow, some way, the case gets thrown out?

    This is the biggest step yet towards an end to the war on terror. We will leave Iraq by next summer. We may be getting out or scaling back in Afghanistan. We now call terror attacks "manmade disasters". We are slow to classify the Fort Hood attack for what it really is.

    The desire to return the nation to the way we were before 9-11 is understandable. But future generations will ask did we win the war on terror? After the spectacle show trials in New York some people will claim victory. Why does it seem like surrender?

    Chris Conley
    Operations Manager-Midwest Communications, Wausau
    11.13.09