Wednesday, September 26 , 2018, 4:56 am | Overcast 60º

 
 
 
 

Mona Charen: Unpacking Obama’s Rationale on Terrorists

The administration lacks coherence and organizing principles in its decision-making

Is there an organizing principle behind the Obama administration’s decisions on dealing with accused terrorists?

Mona Charen
Mona Charen

Announcing that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and four co-conspirators would be granted a civilian trial in Manhattan while the USS Cole bombers would receive a military tribunal, Attorney General Eric Holder was bombastic but opaque.

“For over 200 years,” he intoned, “our nation has relied on a faithful adherence to the rule of law to bring criminals to justice ... .” How did he decide who got a federal civilian court with its lavish legal protections and who got a military tribunal? It was a case-by-case determination, he explained, depending upon “the nature of the offense, the location in which the offense occurred, the identity of the victims and the manner in which the case was investigated.” Not a legal principle to be found in there anywhere.

When critics observed that this amounted to an engraved invitation to al-Qaeda to attack our civilians in preference to our warships, the attorney general countered that he had chosen the venue most likely to “maximize our chances for success.” Really? At a Senate hearing, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., shot down that fatuity by noting that KSM had already pleaded guilty at the military tribunal in Guantanamo. (He had also welcomed martyrdom — one wish that ought to have been promptly granted.) At the same hearing, Holder couldn’t say whether, if U.S. forces captured Osama bin Laden tomorrow, he would be read his Miranda rights.

Do you sense that they haven’t thought this through?

Now that New York City has declined the KSM trial, the administration seems embarrassed and bereft of ideas. An Internet dating service perhaps? “ISO: venue for terror trial, hanging juries a must.” Yes, the death penalty has been invoked by an attorney general who claims simultaneously that a) the civilian trial for a terrorist will showcase America’s devotion to the rule of law; and b) no matter what the outcome, KSM will not walk free.

To be fair to Holder, his boss suffers from the same incoherence.

While daintily reading rights to terrorists we nab here, the U.S. government is attacking suspected terrorists in the wild removes of Pakistan with Hellfire missiles. As the National Journal reports:

Hidden behind walls of top-secret classification, senior U.S. government officials meet in what is essentially a star chamber to decide which enemies of the state to target for assassination. There is no single master list, but all names pass through an elaborate, multiagency vetting process that ends at the level of the National Security Council and ultimately requires presidential approval.

That approval has apparently been readily forthcoming. President Barack Obama approved 50 drone strikes in Pakistan since January 2009, compared with 33 in the last year of the Bush administration. The strikes have reportedly killed dozens of suspected terrorists (along with some civilians).

So sitting in the Pentagon in Virginia, the U.S. military tracks suspected terrorists nearly 7,000 miles away and blasts them with Predator drones when they get a clear shot. Former CIA officer Robert Baer adds, “And typically there is no independent verification from many of these ungoverned places to even confirm whether they pulled the trigger on the right guy. There are no questions asked.”

Nor do they read them their rights. No trials. No process at all, just an intelligence report and a Hellfire missile. That is the way the Obama administration treats rumored terrorists in the border areas of Pakistan. In fact, ABC News has reported that the administration may even have targeted Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born imam believed to have been a “spiritual guide” to the Fort Hood terrorist and the underwear bomber. For the record, this is fine with me. But how do they reconcile the contradiction?

When the administration apprehends an incontrovertible, still-bleeding terrorist who just attempted to blow up an airliner over Detroit, what do they do? They read him his rights, assign him a lawyer and invite him to remain silent. When they have the architect of 9/11 in Guantanamo Bay, awaiting trial in a military court, they announce that they will whisk him to New York and supply him with all the rights of an American citizen.

There are no principles at work here, just the vain and misguided pursuit of international respectability. Obama may well receive applause from Norwegian committees and Sorbonne students — but not from wiser observers, and not from those he is responsible for protecting.

Mona Charen writes for Creators Syndicate. Click here for more information or to contact her.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >