U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Friday that self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-defendants will face trial in a Lower Manhattan civilian federal court – just a few blocks from where the World Trade Center towers fell.
“It is important that we be able to use every forum possible to hold terrorists accountable for their actions,” said Holder in his announcement. “Just as a sustained campaign against terrorism requires a combination of intelligence, law enforcement and military operations, so must our legal efforts to bring terrorists to justice involve both federal courts and reformed military commissions.”
The decision to bring the trials to New York has been met with a firestorm of right-wing complaints about security and attention to issues of torture. This reaction is unwarranted.
Mohammed should be put on open trial so the U.S. is clear that while it respects fairness, it severely punishes attacks on its people.
Though he committed a horrendous act in planning out the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001, Mohammed should still be subject to the due process of law. It may seem easy and fitting to simply execute him on the spot, as MSNBC political analyst Patrick Buchanan suggested, but such barbarity is only embraced by terrorists like Mohammed, who boasted of beheading Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002, according to the New York Post.
Some might argue that it is impossible to find an impartial jury in New York City. However, it would be difficult to find anyone who is unfamiliar with the terrorist attack in New York or elsewhere. That does not mean minimizing jury bias is futile.
Yet former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and other Republicans claim that the open trial would be a propaganda opportunity for Mohammed to spread his anti-American ideology. But a military tribunal might have the same effect.
“Mohammed wants to be considered a holy warrior, a jihadist,” said Democratic Senator Jack Reed to Fox News. “If we try him before military officers, that image of a soldier will be portrayed by the Islamic community. That’s not the image we want.”
There is also little chance that he will be acquitted and let go.
“I fully expect to direct prosecutors to seek the death penalty against each of the alleged 9/11 conspirators,” Holder said.
Still, critics worry that human rights activists will investigate Mohammed’s alleged torture by government agents. The activists should be worried, considering Mohammed will get what he deserves in open court.
“A nation that cannot face its enemies is a nation that’s in danger,” said former 2008 Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani on Fox’s “Your World With Neil Cavuto.”
If America cannot face Mohammed in open court, then it may not achieve full closure over one of the worst terrorist attacks in its history. Because that should not happen, Mohammed should meet his fate within the legal system.
Neil Manimala is a junior majoring in biomedical sciences.