Thursday, November 19, 2009

Law & Order: Special Terrorist Unit

Update: More evidence that the primary purpose of this trial isn't to get a conviction?


A smoky battlefield. Gunfire can be heard in the distance. Small fires burn in piles of debris. Two U.S. Army Rangers enter a small, ruined building and find a man hiding behind the door.

1st Ranger: "We've got one. Male, unarmed. Doesn't appear injured. He's --"

2nd Ranger: "What?"

1st Ranger: "Oh my God! It's him! bin Laden!"

2nd Ranger: "Jesus, you're right! We've got to get him back to HQ! The captain will want to talk to him!"

Two men in cheap suits and trenchcoats suddenly enter the building.

Benny Liscoe: "Hold it right there, soldier. We'll take it from here."

1st Ranger: "Who are you?"

Benny Liscoe: "The name's Liscoe. NYPD."

2nd Ranger: "What? We need to interrogate this man! He could have vital information --."

Cay Rurtis: "Interrogation? Are you kidding? Have you even read this man his rights?"

2nd Ranger: "His... rights?"

Cay Rurtis: "Jesus Christ."

Benny Liscoe: "His rights! You know, Miranda? Did you at least ask him if he wanted to talk to his lawyer?? Any of this ringin' a bell G.I. Joe?"

1st Ranger: "This is a battlefield! We're fighting a war here!"

Benny Liscoe: "You want war? Try getting your palimony reduced when you gotta deal with my second ex-wife."

Cay Rurtis: (in the background) "You have the right to remain silent..."

END SCENE (cue bum-BUM sound effect)

This scene came to me after seeing this demolition of Attorney General Eric Holder by Senator Lindsey Graham over treating battlefield captures as criminal defendants. You'd think America's top lawyer would have been better prepared for some of these questions considering he was being called before Congress to talk about the criminalization policy of terrorists captured on the battlefield.

This was a big issue during the Clinton administration: the treating of the so-called War on Terror as a criminal matter, sending investigators, making arrests through foreign agencies, extradition, etc. Of course, it wasn't called the War on Terror while Clinton was in office.

It seems as though the Obama administration is trying to move back to the Clinton doctrine and away from the policies of the Bush administration. I don't see this as necessarily bad in itself, but it does raise the question of how the military of the United States is being utilized.

If we want to treat terrorists as criminals rather than enemy soldiers, why aren't we pulling out of Afghanistan? Despite the president's lack of a clear plan (add more troops? Reduce the deployment?) it doesn't sound like full withdrawal is being considered. I'm guessing this is because the president believes there's more at stake there than catching criminals. I think this because it's what he said during the campaign.

But that seems incompatible with treating people on the battlefield as if they had snatched a purse or sold a dime bag (or even murdered someone). I'm also going to guess that that isn't really the plan: enemies captured on the ground really won't be rounded up and extradited to the U.S. to stand trial.

But this means that the planned trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed represents a double standard on the part of the administration. Never mind that the president seems determined to poison the well in advance of the trial. Nothing screams "mistrial" louder than the president of the United States mentioning the outcome of the trial before it even starts.


  1. Hang on...this one is going to be a really interesting ride.

  2. I'm not sure what's going on? Is this meant as a distraction from the economy? A chance to drag the Bush administration through the mud? Does the current administation really think this is the best way to go? All of the above? None? It smells really fishy considering the miltary trial was interrupted halfway through to make the announcement that it was now going to federal court.

  3. I really don't know. It's hard to fathom an up-side to this tactic.