Civilian Rights and the "Christmas Day Bomber"

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I've not spoken much about this, because there's many arguments to be made for or against whether Umar Farouq Abdulmuttalab should be tried in criminal court or military court; whether he should have been read his rights soon after being taken into custody, or later, or not at all.

But I am struck by how terribly illogical the administration's defense of its actions has been. One official claimed they had to Mirandize him because the Constitution required it, which just isn't true, and there's precedent to prove it (and no caselaw to argue the contrary).

Joe Biden repeated the latest talking point the other day, that, well, the military tribunals have released two of the three people who were tried in them, so obviously, they don't work very well! The logical contortions behind this argument are astounding.

Biden's argument first asks us to believe that three is a reasonable statistical sampling from which to draw any conclusions, which on its face, is ridiculous. But if you look at who those three people are, it becomes even more ridiculous. All three were charged with, and covincted of, providing material support for terrorism. In addition, Salim Hamdan was charged with, and acquitted of, conspiracy. He, along with Australian David Hicks, were sentenced to 66 and 84 months in prison, respectively, because the crime is not as severe as actual terrorism.

The other person tried was Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, who was convicted for -- in addition to providing material support -- conspiracy and solicitation to commit murder. This is obviously a more servere crime, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

So if we actually follow Biden's argument here -- that we should look at the past results of the tribunals as indicators for what will happen in the future -- then, in fact, we should expect that someone like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who actively planned and participated in killing thousands of civilians, will be convicted and subjected to, at least, life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

How sad is it that when someone looks at your own argument, it actually disproves the point you were making?

Moreover, Biden clearly frames the administration as active in trying to prosecute and jail terrorists, but at the same time, he is framing the fact that two of the three people tried and convicted by the military tribunals as some sort of failure that he wants to avoid with civilian trials.

But if Salim Hamdan being sentenced to only 66 months in jail, and being free today, is such a failure, then shouldn't we at least ask the Obama administration why it hired Hamdan's lawyer, Neal Katyal, as the principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States?

Again, I am not saying we should not use civilian law enforcement methods for investigation and trial of these people. There's arguments for, and against. But it does make me question how strong Obama's case is when he keeps making such terrible arguments to support it.

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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This page contains a single entry by pudge published on February 18, 2010 8:20 AM.

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