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A change of venue might have brought Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to U.S.

April 5, 2011 | 11:39 am

It wasn’t exactly a surprise Monday when the Obama administration announced that five 9/11 conspirators -- including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed -- will be tried before military commissions at Guantanamo rather than in a civilian court in the United States. A trial in this country was strenuously  opposed in Congress, where some members probably would have preferred that the suspects receive no trials at all. 

Obama himself bears some blame. In January he signed a defense authorization bill barring Pentagon funds from being used to transfer Guantanamo detainees to the United States, a signal that he was losing his resolve.

I wonder if Obama would have salvaged the idea of criminal trials if Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. hadn’t proposed trying Mohammed et al. in New York City. Holder might have thought there was some cathartic symmetry in the location, but New Yorkers were aghast. If the administration had decided from the beginning that the trial should be held in a different, and secure, location, Mohammed might still be headed for the dock at Guantanamo. But he might also be preparing to face a civilian jury in Kansas.

That way Obama could have gotten what he wanted: a chance to show the world that even those accused of monstrous crimes are  provided with the full panoply of rights enjoyed by Americans.

ALSO:

Going nowhere on Gitmo

Guantanamo must go

Miranda rights and terror suspects

 -- Michael McGough

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