The announcement on Friday that the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other alleged September 11 conspirators will be held just blocks from the former site of the Twin Towers has quickly given rise to complications.
One factor is the angry reception they are bound to receive in New York. “Hang them,” a construction worker near the “ground zero’ site told AFP. “Put them in a bird cage and hang it in the middle of Times Square,” another man suggested.
A man who works in the area agreed that “It’s the way it should have been from the beginning. This is where the crime happened,” but was also concerned about “how they’ll handle security.”
The trial also poses legal and political risks for the Obama administration. As the Associated Press points out, “The case is likely to force the civilian federal court to confront a host of difficult issues, including rough treatment of detainees, sensitive intelligence gathering and the potential spectacle of defiant terrorists disrupting proceedings. U.S. civilian courts prohibit evidence obtained through coercion, and a number of detainees were questioned using harsh methods some call torture.”
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has already objected that holding a trial in the United States “puts Americans unnecessarily at risk,” and former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey complained that “the plan seems to be to abandon the view that we are at war” and warned that the trial could turn into a circus.
Attorney General Eric Holder insists, however, that there is enough untainted evidence to provide a solid case against the defendants. In addition, according to the AP, “the Justice Department, where Holder has spent most of his career, has long wanted to reassert the ability of federal courts to handle terrorism cases.”
Although Holder appears confident in these five initial cases, evidence to try other Guantanamo detainees may be lacking. According to ProPublica, “Most of the remaining detainees are considered too difficult to prosecute, mostly because the evidence against them is thin or based on statements obtained through coercion.” As a result, “federal and military prosecutors are racing each other to strike plea deals with at least a dozen additional Guantanamo detainees whose testimony could be used against some of the most notorious prisoners.”
ProPublica describes this competition between the federal and military systems as reaching unseemly levels. “One defense attorney, who represents a high-value detainee held by the CIA in secret detention and then sent to Guantanamo, witnessed days of fighting between military and federal prosecutors over who had control of the case. ‘We asked a simple procedural question and ended up bystanders to days of turf battles,’ the attorney said.”
It appears, for example, that Omar Khadr, the young Canadian who was captured in Afghanistan when he was only 15, will stand trial before a military tribunal. “We thought that the incoming Obama administration signalled a new day with respect to these cases,” Khadr’s lawyer charged. “I had thought this administration was better than that.”
Officials told ProPublica that there may be winnable cases against 40 more detainees, but another 30 may never face former charges. “The government is fishing in very shallow water,” one defense attorney said with reference to the remaining detainees. As a result, some detainees may eventually be released even without agreement from all intelligence agencies.
‘The president isn’t above the law’: Supreme Court expected to rule on two key Trump cases on Thursday
Can Donald Trump refuse to hand over his financial records to Congress and New York prosecutors simply because he is president of the United States? The Supreme Court will rule Thursday on two related cases to answer this, with potentially widespread political implications.
The decision by the nine justices could lift the veil on Trump's finances ahead of the November 3 election.
Unlike all of his predecessors since Richard Nixon in the 1970s, New York real estate mogul Trump refused to release his tax returns, despite promising to do so during his 2016 White House campaign.
Trump made his fortune a key component of that campaign, and his lack of transparency raises questions about his true worth and possible conflicts of interest.
Australia offers safe haven to Hong Kongers, sparking China fury
Australia offered pathways to permanent residency for thousands of people from Hong Kong on Thursday in response to China's crackdown on dissent, drawing a furious reply from Beijing.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government was suspending its extradition agreement with the city and, in addition to extending the visas of 10,000 Hong Kongers already in the country, threw open the door to thousands more wanting to start a new life Down Under.
Morrison said the decisions were taken in response to China's imposition last week of a tough new security law in Hong Kong, which he said "constitutes a fundamental change of circumstances" for the semi-autonomous territory.
‘Glee’ star Naya Rivera missing, feared drowned
"Glee" star Naya Rivera is missing and feared drowned at a California lake, local officials said, with rescuers to continue a search for her on Thursday.
The Ventura County Sheriff's office earlier tweeted it was looking for a "possible drowning victim" at the lake, and said a dive team was being deployed to the area.
Rivera, 33, is best known for her role as high school cheerleader Santana Lopez in "Glee", the TV series that she starred in for six seasons.
She rented a boat on Wednesday to take her four-year-old son onto Lake Piru, northwest of Los Angeles, local media cited the County Sheriff as saying.