The civilian trial of terrorism suspect Ahmed Ghailani, who was linked to the U.S. embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya, was unsatisfying to those who believe that accused terroristsshould not be tried in civilian courts. To them, the scoreboard tells the story: Ghailani was convicted on one count, and acquitted onover 280 other charges.
The newspaper headlines today lay out the problem:
USA Today (11/19/10):
Detainee’s Acquittals Spark Debate Over Civilian Trials
Washington Post (11/19/10):
Verdict in Terror Case a Setback for Advocates of Civilian Trials
A more rational media system would discuss the verdict primarily as a resultof the U.S. government’s decision to torture detainees like Ghailani, who has been held at “black sites” and Guantanamo Bay. As Glenn Greenwald noted (Salon, 11/18/10):
Last month, the federal judge presiding over the case, Lewis Kaplan, banned the testimony of a key witness because the government under George Bush and Dick Cheney learned of his identity not through legal means but instead by torturing(and also possibly coerced the testimony of that witness).
The manner in which the government pressed the case against Ghailani was closely linked to these torture allegations. It’s hard to have a serious conversation about the case without acknowledging this. And the fact thatthe trials excluded evidence allegedlyobtainedthrough torture is, as Greenwald argued, proof that the justice system wasfunctioning properly.