Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that five men held in the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, would be moved to the United States in preparation for upcoming criminal trials in New York City. Included in this group is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has claimed to be among the masterminds of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on Manhattan and Washington, D.C.
Predictably, this has led to roars of outrage from the political right (predictably, because the move was made by the Obama Justice Department, and anything done by the Obama Justice Department elicits roars of outrage from the right). Their criticism, when it is intelligible, falls into three categories. First, there is the concern that bringing a “known terrorist” to trial in New York City (or, presumably, anywhere on U.S. soil) will make that location a target for terrorist attack. Second, some conservatives are disgusted by the idea that a foreign national is being accorded the right to civilian trial, when he is actually an “enemy combatant.” Third – and I’ve sat up over beers at a bonfire recently discussing the finer points of this one – many are worried that the trial will be a “circus” that turns into an excoriation and “embarrassment” of the United States’ intelligence community, specifically, the CIA.