Torture and the ‘Problem’ With the Courts

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.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.