Just a provocation, or, less provocatively, food for thought: The backlash against civilian terrorism trials, in response to the only-partial conviction of accused embassy-bombing conspirator Ahmed Ghailani, says a lot about the conflicting desires at play in deciding where to try such accused criminals, and hints that elements of the venue debate are a sham.
In selling the concept of civilian trials to the public, Attorney General Eric Holder sought to convince Americans of a civilian jury's ability to deliver convictions, citing previously accused terrorists who had been convicted by federal prosecutors in civilian courts.
At a congressional hearing last November, Holder pledged to win convictions against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other alleged 9/11 conspirators: "Failure is not an option," he said. "These are cases that have to be won. I don't expect that we will have a contrary result."
It seems to be the main concern of those who oppose civilian trials for suspected terrorists: that civilian courtrooms will not be able to deliver convictions. Complementary fears, of course, are that a trial in the U.S. would pose a security threat (or, were it to be held in Manhattan, emotionally scar the city once again), and whether it's safe to hold convicted international terrorists in domestic supermax prisons. But the warning issued by Rep. Peter King in the wake of Ghailani's only-partial conviction--that this result, in particular, reveals a lack of wisdom in civilian trials--speaks to a fear that civilian courtrooms simply can't deliver the result King, for instance, wants.