My new column for the FT mildly criticizes the decision to use a civilian court for KSM and the other 9/11 plotters. I say mildly because the most popular lines of attack on this approach are wrong, and because the advantages of the alternative--military commissions--are often overstated. Still, on balance, I think it's a mistake.
The much-reported comments by one of the accused's lawyers, saying that the men would plead not guilty (despite earlier indications to the contrary) came after the piece was written. But I can't say I was surprised. Nor, I imagine, was Eric Holder. If he was, that would be surprising.
From now on, hesitate before you call the Obama administration timid. Its decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other alleged 9/11 conspirators in a civilian court in New York City, rather than before a military commission in a far-off place, is brave. It is also unwise.
This is not for the reasons emphasised by most critics - that a civilian trial is better than these men deserve, or that it will give them a platform for propaganda. The real problem is that the decision involves a needless risk, while failing to improve the legitimacy of the US government's approach to terror trials.