Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 25, 2011

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE GHAILANI SENTENCING.... If recent history is any guide, today's court proceedings will lead to another round of complaints from conservatives. They really shouldn't bother.

A judge sentenced the first Guantanamo detainee to have a U.S. civilian trial to life in prison Tuesday, saying anything he suffered at the hands of the CIA and others "pales in comparison to the suffering and the horror" caused by the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.

U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan sentenced Ahmed Ghailani to life, calling the attacks "horrific" and saying the deaths and damage they caused far outweighs "any and all considerations that have been advanced on behalf of the defendant."

He also ordered Ghailani to pay a $33 million fine.

Kaplan announced the sentenced in a packed Manhattan courtroom after calling it a day of justice for the defendant, as well as for the families of 224 people who died in the al-Qaida bombings, including a dozen Americans, and thousands more who were injured.

In recent months, the Ghailani case has been a key talking point for the right, and at the surface, it's easy to understand why -- the former Gitmo detainee was brought to the U.S. for a civilian criminal trial, at the conclusion of which he was cleared of 284 out of 285 charges. Ghailani was convicted, however, on terrorist conspiracy charges.

"A ha!" conservatives said. "We told you this wasn't going to work."

But all things considered, the right has this backwards.

For about four years, the Bush administration held terrorist Ghailani at Guantanamo Bay, and didn't have much of a plan going forward. The Obama administration tried an approach that made sense -- filing charges against Ghailani, subjecting him to the American criminal justice system, and convicting him on terrorist conspiracy charges. Ghailani will now spend the rest of his days behind bars.

That's not a failure; that's a success.

What's more, the case against him might have been easier if the all the evidence against was admissible. It wasn't -- because the Bush gang tortured him.

As a political matter, the administration may have intended to use this trial to demonstrate a larger point, and to a very real extent, it worked -- there were no security threats and no opportunities for the accused to use the proceedings as a platform. Instead, U.S. prosecutors stuck to the rule of law, secured a conviction, and put away the accused bad guy. The administration wanted a public, transparent, legitimate trial, with lawyers and a jury, to help demonstrate America's commitment to its own principles, and the result is one the public, regardless of ideology, can be satisfied with.

Republicans, meanwhile, insist that it's preferable to try terror suspects in military tribunals, and we'll likely hear more of that today. It's worth remembering, then, that these commissions don't work, and don't deliver the results the GOP claims to want.

Steve Benen 3:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (5)

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For one fleeting, wonderful second I thought the headline read: The Importance of the GIULIANI Sentencing.

A New Yorker can dream, can't I?

Posted by: Gummo on January 25, 2011 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

Doesn't work and doesn't deliver the results Republicans claim to want? For Republicans, that's a feature, not a bug.

Posted by: Another Steve on January 25, 2011 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Actually what amazes me is how little coverage this trial is getting from anyone. For all the talk from Republicans saying such 'terror trials' would become a massive media storm that coverage has been very limited. Hardly anybody talks about it in any MSM outlet.

Hell I'll bet the vast majority of Americans don't even know this trial happened let alone that it ended with a guilty verdict and a life sentence.

Posted by: thorin-1 on January 25, 2011 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

"it's preferable to try Republican suspects in military tribunals".

I agree!

Posted by: Trollop on January 25, 2011 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

The message needs to be "Just think how much longer he'd have gotten if the Bush torturers hadn't made it so that much of the evidence inadmissible. They really undermined our ability to deal with terrorists like this guy."

Posted by: biggerbox on January 25, 2011 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK
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