After a prolonged delay and much political debate, legal proceedings against Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Walid bin Attash, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Hawsawi , the defendants accused of plotting the 9-11 attacks on the United States, began last week before a military tribunal held at Guantanamo.
Initial reports of the day's proceedings lead us to expect an even longer trial than that of Zacarias Moussaoui, the 20th hijacker in the 9-11 attacks, whose case took almost five years to complete.
The day was filled with antics by the defendants and procedural posturing by the defense attorneys. A simple 15 minute process took about twelve hours to complete.
The defendants refused to speak or even use the electronic translation headphones provided, then they requested to pray. Meanwhile, one of them was placed in a restraint chair for disrupting the tribunal.
One of the defense attorneys, Cheryl Bormann, wearing a hijab and long black robe, requested that the judge order the women in the court to dress modestly out of respect for the defendants' religious beliefs. One forgets that it is those very beliefs that led these defendants to conspire to kill thousands of innocent Americans on one September day, in the name of Allah.
We were provided with a brief description of Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM), the mastermind behind the plot. He was described as having a long flowing grey beard with red streaks in it. This is traditional for conservative Islamic fundamentalist men who are forbidden by the Sunnah to dye their hair in its natural color but are allowed to use a henna extract following the custom of what many believe the prophet Muhammed did.
One might ask where he got the henna? Or is it now the policy of the current administration to allow inmates to dye their hair? When last I checked, any inmate found with hair coloring was in possession of contraband. Changing one's appearance in prison is often a prelude to an escape attempt and is considered a serious breach of security.
Surely antics like these, and much more animated ones, are in store for the future. The defendants have been provided a platform to preach their virulent form of Islamism and inspire their followers to the path of jihad while shouting contempt for Western civilization.
But after the hearing and the verdict rendered, what then? Only one of two sentences can be administered: execution or life in prison. If the latter, then we must determine now where that will be. Not too long ago, the current Administration pledged to close
Guantanamo and assimilate those held there into the US prison system. And more recently, the current Attorney General sought to have the trial of these defendants held in New York City. If not for the Congressional action taken to thwart that move, lower Manhattan would now be in a high security lockdown.
If we do take the individuals into the Bureau of Prisons and place them in the SuperMax facility in Florence, Colorado, we will have created a conundrum far surpassing any ever seen by prison administrators, even with the most stringent Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) placed on the defendants.
In prison, time often works to the great advantage of the convict. Mainstream society often forgets the most heinous of criminals once they are locked away. But the terrorist never forgets, and knows how to manipulate the system.
A recent example of this was in the case of Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, convicted in 2001 for the bombing of the US embassy in Tanzania. Mohamed has been given access to the federal courts to challenge his conditions of confinement. These SAMs were placed on him immediately after his conviction.
Now, ten years later, he is telling the judge that he has changed, been rehabilitated, and it is no longer necessary to control whom he talks to on the phone, or who visits him, or whom he can write to. In fact he wants to be placed in the general population so that he can attend services in the prison mosque. Sounds absurd ? What if the motion is granted? Not today maybe, but five years from now, who will remember? The families of the innocent victims - they will never forget and neither should we
So what is the purpose of the trial and what should be the outcome? It is the high and noble cause that justice prevail and the rule of law be witnessed by the world, including those who would seek to destroy the United States. Let us not stray from that and let the penalty fit the crime.
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