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Posted by on Nov 14, 2009 in International | 17 comments

The Trouble with the 9/11 Trial

The attacks brought Americans together briefly, but the aftermath is still sowing division–as the decision of Attorney General Eric Holder to try five of the 9/11 terrorists in lower Manhattan brings conflict and confusion.

On the surface, it’s hard to argue with Holder’s logic: “After eight years of delay, those allegedly responsible for the attacks of September 11th will finally face justice. They will be brought to New York–to New York–to answer for their alleged crimes, in a courthouse just blocks away from where the twin towers once stood.”

A New York Times editorial calls the decision “an enormous victory for the rule of law, a major milestone in Mr. Obama’s efforts to close the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and an important departure from Mr. Bush’s disregard for American courts and their proven ability to competently handle high-profile terror cases.”

But the Wall Street Journal focuses on the fear of terrorist reprisal: “Coming soon to a civilian courtroom blocks from Ground Zero: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four other al Qaeda planners of 9/11. Be sure to get your tickets early, and don’t forget to watch out for the truck-bomb barricades and rooftop snipers.”

Beyond this conflict of idealistic symbolism and realistic fears, there are other uneasy questions:

How can such a trial possibly find an impartial jury?

How can it not be fairly called “a show trial” when the verdict is predetermined or, in the extremely unlikely event of acquittal, the defendants will face a backlog of other charges?

In an event designed to show American fairness and rule of law, how can it not also be a huge media showcase for the defendants’ countercharges of torture and brutality?

Read the rest of this entry.