The question of whether to try the 9/11 perpetrators in federal court or a military tribunal is not an easy one. It turns, in part, on whether you see the Al Qaeda attacks as an act of war or a criminal conspiracy. Al Qaeda declared war on the United States in the mid-1990s, an act of some presumption, since it was not a state or a government exile, but a terrorist cult. Although George Bush declared “War on Terrorism,” he did never did so officially, via an act of Congress. What we have here, legally, is a mishmash.
I am sure that I’ve probably gotten something wrong in the paragraph above. I don’t have much patience for legal niceties when thousands of innocents are being targeted and killed. Consequently, I’ve had no strong feelings about whether to try the perpetrators in a military tribunal or a federal court. Just so long as they never see the light of day again. (I’m opposed to the death penalty. Let Khalid Sheik Mohammed sit in a box the rest of his life; maybe, over time, he’ll have more to tell us; maybe, over time, he will have an epiphany while watching The Mentalist on prison tv, and convert to sufism, that loveliest of Islamic strands.)
In any case, I thought Steve Simon makes an excellent case for a federal trial in today’s New York Times.