Jim Comey and Jack Goldsmith, who both served in the Justice Department during the Bush administration, have an op-ed in Friday’s Washington Post defending Eric Holder, Obama’s Attorney General. Comey and Goldsmith say Holder’s decision to try 9/11 “mastermind” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian court was “reasonable,” because military commissions really aren’t everything the right is cracking them up to be:
[Critics of Holder’s decision] place undue faith in military commissions as an alternative to civilian trials…. Tne reason commissions have not worked well is that changes in constitutional, international and military laws since they were last used, during World War II, have produced great uncertainty about the commissions’ validity. This uncertainty has led to many legal challenges that will continue indefinitely — hardly an ideal situation for the trial of the century.
By contrast, there is no question about the legitimacy of U.S. federal courts to incapacitate terrorists. Many of Holder’s critics appear to have forgotten that the Bush administration used civilian courts to put away dozens of terrorists, including “shoe bomber” Richard Reid; al-Qaeda agent Jose Padilla; “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh; the Lackawanna Six; and Zacarias Moussaoui, who was prosecuted for the same conspiracy for which Mohammed is likely to be charged. Many of these terrorists are locked in a supermax prison in Colorado, never to be seen again.
Goldsmith and Comey also say that concerns about the KSM trial making New York a more attractive target for terrorists are unwarrented, since “If al-Qaeda could carry out another attack in New York, it would.” The column should be politically useful for Holder and the Obama administration (“even Bush administration officials defend our decision”). Read the whole thing.