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Holder's decision is embarrassing and offensive

Two weeks ago, in the Friday news black hole with President Obama safely on the way to Asia, Attorney General Eric Holder announced his decision to award five Sept. 11 conspirators, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the full rights of American citizens at a federal trial. Holder perhaps hoped the tides of the cable cycle would wash the news away. They haven’t, for a number of reasons.

First, Holder’s Senate testimony on the trials added to public concerns instead of allaying them. He was unprepared for obvious questions. What would happen if the terrorists were acquitted? “Failure is not an option,” said Holder, in violation of the principle of due process -- a response Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) properly called “ludicrous.” Could he point to a single case in U.S. history in which an enemy combatant caught on the battlefield was tried in civilian court? Holder answered that he’d “have to look at that” -- confirming he had not. How could he argue that a conviction would be best assured by a civilian court when Mohammed had already attempted to plead guilty to a military commission? Holder couldn’t answer. Would Osama bin Laden, if caught, need to be read his Miranda rights by U.S. soldiers? Holder said “it would depend.”

The performance was embarrassing, but also offensive. According to Holder, the opponents of a New York trial are cowering: “I am not scared what Khalid Sheik Mohammed has to say at trial -- and no one else needs to be either.” The issue, of course, is not whether Americans are scared of Mohammed’s words, but whether a small group of fanatics might be inspired by those words to acts of violence. This is the bravado of a man fresh out of arguments -- made easier because the cost of his “bravery” might be borne by others.

Second, we have learned since the announcement that Holder apparently did not consult Obama before deciding to bring the Sept. 11 terrorists back to Ground Zero. No further evidence is necessary that Holder regards the war on terrorism as a law enforcement matter. In a decision with obvious national security implications, the attorney general consulted with neither the commander in chief nor the secretary of defense. He employed a process that might be more appropriately applied to the trial of a mafia kingpin or a serial killer.

And what a process. In an interview on Jim Lehrer’s NewsHour, Holder described consulting with Justice and Defense department prosecutors and staffers. The rest of the interview deserves to be quoted at length:

Lehrer: Did you run [the decision] by President Obama?
Holder: Just informed him of the decision….
Lehrer: So you just told him what your decision was; you didn’t say, “What do you think about it, Mr. President?”
Holder: Nope. Told him last night, or had relayed to him what I was going to do last night while he was on Air Force One on his way to Asia.
Lehrer: Did you talk to anybody outside the government?
Holder: I talked to my wife --
Lehrer: Yes? Okay.
Holder: -- about what she thought. And I actually talked to my brother, who’s a Port Authority police officer who served --
Lehrer: Oh, is that right? Yes.
Holder: -- in New York, New Jersey, and who lost friends and colleagues on 9/11 in the towers. And I talked to them about what -- was it appropriate to bring it in New York, the symbolic significance of it, the possibility of getting a good and fair, detached jury.

Yeah, okay. So Holder -- in making a decision about a leader from an international terrorist organization currently in combat with American troops abroad -- consulted with his wife and brother. And not, apparently, about the possibility of another attack on America, but about symbolism and jury selection. Do we have any reason to trust Holder’s strategic judgment on the nature of the global terrorist threat? Has he said or done anything recently to increase that trust?

Third, we have begun to hear, second-hand, from the terrorists themselves. Based on an interview with a lawyer for one of the killers, the Associated Press reports that all five will plead not guilty, so they can explain “their assessment of American foreign policy.” The lawyer unnecessarily added: “Their assessment is negative.” One would think their opinions on American foreign policy were clear enough already, expressed in a smoldering mass grave and thousands of funerals. But thanks to Holder, they will get another chance to make their case.

Mohammed was prepared to plead guilty to a military commission, convinced that his martyrdom had run its course. Now it appears he will plead not guilty in New York to gain a larger audience for his ideology -- and higher drama at his exit. Can there be any doubt that Mohammed prefers this outcome? That he thinks it useful to his cause?

We would like to think that everyone in the world will find his message repulsive. Unfortunately, some will not. Some will agree -- as they cheered on Sept. 11. Some will be impressed by Mohammed’s defiance. Some may be persuaded to follow in his path.

Asked if the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where the terrorists will be held, is secure, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey -- also a former Federal judge who oversaw cases related to the 1993 World Trade Center attacks -- responded, “Of course it’s secure. They’re not going to escape. The question is not whether they’re going to escape. The question is whether, not only that particular facility, but the city at large, will become the focus of mischief in the form of murder by adherents of KSM -- whether this raises the odds that it will. I would suggest to you that it raises them very high.”

When Holder announced his decision, many jumped to his defense, assuming that the Justice Department had made its decision carefully. That assumption can no longer be sustained. Holder has made himself, and his defenders, look ludicrous. He has set into motion a process likely to result in the disclosure of sensitive information (as did the 1993 World Trade Center trial) and the elevation of the authors of Sept. 11 as terrorist folk heroes. He has confused American soldiers in the field, who no longer know if terrorists should be treated as enemies or defendants. And by insisting that terrorists caught on foreign battlefields be treated exactly the same as American citizens, he has increased the risk to American citizens.

Here is a prediction: As all these consequences -- and the incompetence that encouraged them -- become clear, Holder will be pressured to resign. And Obama will be happy to say he was not consulted in this sloppy, dangerous decision.

By Michael Gerson  | November 24, 2009; 5:20 PM ET
Categories:  Gerson  | Tags:  Michael Gerson  
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Next: Peace negotiations with the Taliban?


"This is the bravado of a man fresh out of arguments -- made easier because the cost of his “bravery” might be borne by others."

Who, again, did you used to work for?

Posted by: adelaide1 | November 24, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse

I honestly don't see where this is a bad thing....we show the world that we live our values...when it's hard, not just when we want to. Secondly, so he consulted his brother and what? If he had consulted anyone else, you would be whining that he couldn't make a decision on his own and that he should resign for that reason. I actually find it reassuring that our President has picked people for certain jobs and those people can do those jobs, without having to always defer to the, I mean president. The last presidency was run like a monarchy, with the President and vice president politicizing the AG's office....glad to see that isn't the case here.

And the "sensitive information"...I would hope the AG would know which classified info can/can't be used. I would also hope he builds his cases without the use of vital information, so it doesn't need to be released. And what are you worried about might leak out? That the CIA has secret prisons? That they waterboard? Perhaps certain interrogation techniques (which are all known to the enemy anyway)? The only sensitive information is what are we doing NOW and in the FUTURE, which isn't relevant in these trials, as any field information is over 5 yrs old. So any PERTINENT information is most likely already in the public domain...and the enemy already knows it.

As far as using the courtroom to voice their opinions, all that needs to occur is that the judge shuts them up for irrelevancy.

It sounds as if your rebuke of Holder is made primarily out of a disdain for the laws and judicial systems of this country. If you would prefer a system where we can make sure the outcome is whatever it is that we WANT, then I urge you to go live in the Middle East, and let's see if their laws are what you want here.

Posted by: cgallaway2000 | November 24, 2009 7:32 PM | Report abuse

_You_ are embarrassing and offensive, Mr. Gerson. Your obvious fear that the crimes the administration you were part of will be exposed has led you down a path of fear-mongering and unhinged insult-spewing -- not just at AG Holder and other members of the Obama administration, but at your own colleagues at the Washington Post.

You are losing it, sir. Do try to compose yourself.

Posted by: sembtex | November 24, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Gearson recently wrote a column where he said he was against health care reform, because, if it passed, the GOP would be at a permanent political disadvantage. Just think about that: 47,000 American die each year because they dont have health care, but Gearson isn't concerned about that at all but the fact that his political party-led now my Sara "I never met a person who wasnt mean to me"-Palin would be hampered. This is a man who claims to be real Christian too. Perhaps God may have mercy on your soul Gearson, most of us wouldnt.

Posted by: Makewonder | November 24, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Gerson,
Your speculation at what may happen if KSM were tried in New York City & made statements which were reported is ludicrous... there are websites full of statements of these idiots.
I'm embarrassed your defense of our Constitution and vital jury trials (as a check on unbounded presidential power to grab anyone, including Americans, and hold them w/out Bush proclaimed) has been warped by your right-wing politics and love of presidential power.
I thought you conservatives favored limited government? Silly me, your wing of the GOP loves presidential power, better known as the unitary executive theory....this is basically as an elected dictatorship.

Posted by: Civilius | November 24, 2009 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Gerson and friends will most certainly be embarassed by trials in civilian courts of men his Boss said couldn't safely be triede anywhere.

Doesn't matter what the results are, george ends up looking VERY bad.

Worst case for George is a conviction. He, after all, said he couldn't get a conviction under any fair trial he could conceive of. These men were SOOOO evil that they could only get justice if he rigged the courts.

An acquittal probably looks at least as bad for George, since if it occurs it would mean that this Worst of the Worst wasn't guilty in the first place. (Note how hard States fight top avoid giving exonerated improperly convicted people their freedom, let alone justice for their wrongful convictions.) When the acquittal comes after weeks of testimony, all thoroughly believable of torture, maltreatment of every kind, and the rest if the things Georgie's justice stands accused of. Enough to want to make even a conscienceless miscreant like Gerson blush.

And all the permutations of directed dismissal of charges that might occur when it becomes apparent how tainted the Government's case is by the maltreatment doesn't do the Dick and George show much good either. Then it is a case of, "we COULD have got them but George wanted the satisfaction of ordering torture over the satisfaction of getting justice."

Republicans OUGHT to be embarrassed.

Posted by: ceflynline | November 24, 2009 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Gerson doesn't seem to get it. He's been beating this broken drum for several columns now, and from what I've read, the on-line responses from those who value the Constitution more than Gerson does are an overwhelming majority.

Gerson and his ilk have used fear as a political tool for far too long, but more and more people have begun to realize that it is just a tool, and are not afraid of following the rule of law and our Constitutional values. I can only guess that Gerson has read the responses and seen that the majority of commenters don't agree with him - he is beginning to sound more than a bit hysterical.

Posted by: vklip1 | November 24, 2009 9:07 PM | Report abuse

This is truly shameful and deplorable that Eric Holder is pushing for five terrorist's to have full rights of Americans citizens in New York....This is a slap in the face for all of those who lost loved ones during the 9/11 incident...Eric Holder is treating these terrorist's more favorably than the victims's family members or loved ones of the 9/11 incident. Did Mr. Holder consult with any of these family members or loved one's of those who died such a heinous and horrible death or is this another scheme backed by the A.C.L.U.?

Posted by: Rhonda5 | November 24, 2009 10:25 PM | Report abuse

This government-as-performance art is getting tiresome, but what should we expect when we elect a showcase president ("Glory, Glory Hallelujah" plays in background), who appoints a showcase AG, who gives us showcase justice? For this media-addled society, the play's the thing.

Posted by: lbjack | November 25, 2009 1:56 AM | Report abuse

They're being given "the full rights of American citizens"?

As opposed to what? If someone commits a crime on American soil, they're only tried, convicted and sentenced if they have a US passport? Otherwise they're what, just arrested, taken out back, and shot?

Gerson's fantasy that a group of terrorists amounts to an official standing army "in combat" with Americans overseas is absurd, but even if we accepted that, this was a crime committed here in the US. Oh sorry, an "act of war", he believes. Okay so when soldiers from an army that we're at war with are captured, what happens then? Take them out back and shoot them? Hold them, torture them, and then execute them? Don't we have rules about prisoners of war, which are basically that we hold them, treat them humanely, if not pleasantly, and then return them when the war is over?

There are about seven ways to look at this and in each and every one of these ways, no matter how you frame it, Michael Gerson's conclusions are unconstitutional, despicable, and against everything we've ever stood for.

We don't execute prisoners of war so if these are "soldiers" then you're wrong. We certainly don't execute criminals without some sort of due process, so if these are criminals as most of us believe, then you're also wrong.

In calling this man a soldier or enemy combatant, it's Gerson who actually elevates KSM to exactly the way he wants to be seen, and the way he characterizes himself. To the rest of us he's a criminal, a violent religious fanatic who reminds us just how dangerous that kind of person can be.

Posted by: Billy_Pilgrim | November 25, 2009 2:14 AM | Report abuse

First the Republicans told us to fear our Executive Branch and President Obama. Then they said to be afraid of all the Democrats in the Legislative Branch of our Congress. Now they tell us we must fear Eric Holder and the Judicial Branch of our Government. Basically, the Republicans are telling us that they no longer recognize the Government of the United States. This is America. Our country can handle a few terrorists. If it can't, then the terrorists have won. Propagating the fear that our Government and Judicial system is incompetent to prosecute terrorists effectively will keep Americans their victims for decades beyond 2001.

Posted by: mawheelz | November 25, 2009 2:18 AM | Report abuse

Holder's comment was a jaw-dropper: "But I think if people will, in a neutral and detached way, look at the decision that I have made today, understand the reasons why I made those decisions, and try to do something that's rare in Washington -- leave the politics out of it and focus on what's in the best interest of this country -- I think the criticism will be relatively muted. Having said that, I'm sure we'll hear a lot of criticism."

Repeat after Holder: " the best interest of THIS country..."
There is no way to "understand the reasons why [he] made those decisions," other than being so blinded by ideology that he does not care about the consequences of his decision.
He's nuts.

Posted by: parkbench | November 25, 2009 2:41 AM | Report abuse

It was a stupid decision by Holder. He talked with his wife and his brother but not his boss, the president of the United States.
Obama should fire him and get a competent AG to handle this matter appropriately - and all the other issues that will come along in the next three years.

Posted by: Kansas28 | November 25, 2009 2:58 AM | Report abuse

It is one thing to be a natural coward. It happens. We must forgive and help people past it. But this seems to be politically motivated.

I go along with Gene Robinson who said "Bring it on."

I was never prouder of President Bush than when he said "Bring it on."

We need bravado. We need a place and a time to tell our story to the world about 9/11 and this is the time and place to do it.

For shame Mr. Gerson.

This stinks.

Posted by: gary4books | November 25, 2009 5:03 AM | Report abuse

Absolutely Michael, well articulated!

When the chips are down, the arrogant Eric Holder will surely be on his own, since his inept boss Barack Hussein Obama, will definitely disown him.

When has America become a banana Republic, so much so the Attorney General of USA is now condescending to such a ridiculous level of discussing sensitive issues bothering on national security at family dinning table?

The earlier, this insensitive bully guy, call Eric Holder (and his jungle method of dispensing justice, i.e. consultation with his wife and brother) resigns, the better for the civilized world.

Posted by: chrismercy2003 | November 25, 2009 5:26 AM | Report abuse

I for one am not "afraid" of a civilian trial for these subhumans. I am disgusted by it, as I am by the comments of readers supporting it. It's hard for me to see how the case won't be thrown out of court. None of them was Mirandized, and one of them repeatedly underwent what our Fearless Reader Obowma stated to the world was torture in order for the CIA to gain information. On top of it all, our Fearless Reader Obowma also stated publically that he believes KSM will be executed, thereby polluting the entire jury pool nationwide with one sentence. It was almost as bad as when Holder said "Failure is not an option." What exactly is meant by that statement, if not "We'll give 'em a fair trial and then hang 'em."

This decision was made for the most crass and cynical of political reasons. It is purely a sop to the Left and a chance for Obowma to go after Bush and Cheney, since KSM was apparently the only one waterboarded and these five are the only ones receiving civilian trials.

I go on record saying that I, and millions of other Americans, am appalled by this decision, and am almost equally appalled by those Americans who applaud it. The ignorance and naivete of those who do is shocking. Since there are millions of other wannabe KSM's out there anyway, I say, I hope he's acquitted, just so I can see it can blow up in Holder's and Obowma's faces like exploding cigars. It couldn't happen to a better bunch of AA "leaders" and America-haters.

Posted by: RedderThanEver | November 25, 2009 6:46 AM | Report abuse

Enemies captured on foreign soil have typically been treated as Prisoners of War, not criminals. Why are these guys not in a POW camp?

They can be held until Osama bin Laden signs an instrument of surrender.

Posted by: vinyl1 | November 25, 2009 7:32 AM | Report abuse

Gerson is embarrassing and offensive. He seems to be really bothered by Holder's decision to stick to the laws of the land, instead of brazenly bypassing them like is former boss. Afraid of what the trials might reveal about the Bush/Cheney shenanigans, Gerson?

As for the accused using their trial as a propaganda tool, it is simply a stupid comment. The presiding judge at trial is master supreme of his/her courtroom. He/she has the right to take all actions necessary to preserve order in his courtroom, including removing the defendant(s) from the courtroom if they become rowdy, tell the lawyers to stick to the matter at hand instead of indulging in flights of fancy, and hold the lawyers in contempt if they disturb the proceedings, etc...

We, New Yorkers, want this trial in our city. It is our vindication. It is our chance to have our day in court. And New Yorkers are tough, unlike the bleating Republicans and Neo-cons beating their breasts from the hinterland or the corridors of Congress. New Yorkers live everyday with the possibility of terrorist attacks in our subway, our crowded train stations, our high-rises, etc... We are sitting ducks. But we do not wet our panties, like Gerson and the rest of his ilk. We are vigilant, not afraid. So to all the bedwetters out there, here is a nice middle finger to you from this New Yorker.

Posted by: Gatsby10 | November 25, 2009 7:33 AM | Report abuse

Gerson is embarrassing and offensive. He seems to be really bothered by Holder's decision to stick to the laws of the land, instead of brazenly bypassing them like is former boss. Afraid of what the trials might reveal about the Bush/Cheney shenanigans, Gerson?

As for the accused using their trial as a propaganda tool, it is simply a stupid comment. The presiding judge at trial is master supreme of his/her courtroom. He/she has the right to take all actions necessary to preserve order in his courtroom, including removing the defendant(s) from the courtroom if they become rowdy, tell the lawyers to stick to the matter at hand instead of indulging in flights of fancy, and hold the lawyers in contempt if they disturb the proceedings, etc...

We, New Yorkers, want this trial in our city. It is our vindication. It is our chance to have our day in court. And New Yorkers are tough, unlike the bleating Republicans and Neo-cons beating their breasts from the hinterland or the corridors of Congress. New Yorkers live everyday with the possibility of terrorist attacks in our subway, our crowded train stations, our high-rises, etc... We are sitting ducks. But we do not wet our panties, like Gerson and the rest of his ilk. We are vigilant, not afraid. So to all the bedwetters out there, here is a nice middle finger to you from this New Yorker.

Posted by: Gatsby10 | November 25, 2009 7:33 AM | Report abuse

KSM and anyone else will be a definite conviction or they would not have a trial. Not all but those that are easy are going to court. For all those that oppose the court ruling of trials, move out of our nation of laws that have worked for over 2 centuries. Over a million NYers took the subway to work on 9/12/01 getting on with their lives regardless of lifes lemons. Anyone that fears trials or incarcerating them where they did their evil deeds, I have a word for "WUSS".

Posted by: jameschirico | November 25, 2009 8:09 AM | Report abuse

How do you rah rahs for Holder feel about the millions of dollar that are now wasted on the military tribunals for these murderers ? Now they have to start all over again at great expense to NEW YORK and to you of course but you are too stupid to realize that. This show trial is not about justice ---its to mock Bush and our intelligence system. How much more intelligence data will we give away to terrorists ?? We dont need them in New York or the circus that will now come there...Wake up and stop being such fools... this is for a military tribunal..not a civil court.

Posted by: JUNGLEJIM123 | November 25, 2009 8:11 AM | Report abuse

The arrogance and self-centeredness of New Yorkers such as Gatsby10 never cease to amaze other Americans. Let me remind you, you middle-finger waving crass individual, that 9/11 involved more than just the city of New York. In your overweaning self-centeredness and eagerness to insult, you conveniently forget that there were also attacks on the Pentagon and over a field in Pennsylvania. Also, when acts of war or, for that matter, acts of murder, are committed, it is not simply the individuals attacked who have been wronged. Murder or assault charges are not pressed by individuals but by the State. Likewise, acts of war are not simply perpetrated upon individuals but upon an entire country.

Holder is not "sticking to the laws of the land." Like you, he is sticking his middle finger at white America and specifically at Bush and Cheney. Let me assure you that there are millions of Americans who couldn't give a rat's rear that Bush and Cheney allowed a little water to be dribbled down this subhuman's nose to gain information.

As I said in my earlier post, since there are millions of KSM wannabees out there anyway, I hope this guy and his cohorts are acquitted, just so I can enjoy the reaction of people such as yourself, as well as the two clowns Holder and Obowma.

Posted by: RedderThanEver | November 25, 2009 8:16 AM | Report abuse

Now we have Navy Seals being courtmartialed for finding top terrorists many more ways will Obama slap down the military for doing their jobs ? Find them but dont lay one finger on them or you will be court martialed. So as they kick you in the face and grab for your gun you are suppose to say what ? Excuse me, Mr Terrorist, please dont do that you have the right to remain silent etc....We are on a dangerous course here catering to these murderers.... but Obama still doesnt get it...they are not our friends and never will be and we will suffer much worse than Ft Hood if he doesnt change course.

Posted by: JUNGLEJIM123 | November 25, 2009 8:18 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Gerson,

All bets are off when the entire world is your battlefield, which was the conceit of the label "war on terror" that enabled us to capture anyone suspected of terrorism and take them anywhere we wanted, put them in prisons without recourse to any kind of legal representation for years on end, torture them and then claim that having an open trial would expose national security secrets(torture, which queers a verdict) and then hold exactly three military tribunals where the defendants got relatively short sentences. Someone had to start unraveling this mess of a made up justice system and unfortunately for Holder, he got the job.

This idea that testimony given by KSM and the others who will be tried will influence would be radicals any more than two wars in Muslim countries, the exposure of torture and rendition, the continuing conflict in Gaza and the nefarious influence of extremist clerics and the internet, is ridiculous. Unfortunately, at this point we can't make radical changes to ongoing situations that according to the testimony of extremists have the most influence on their behavior. We can, however, treat stateless terrorists as we have in the past, in NYC and elsewhere, by giving them a trial in our laudatory justice system.

Posted by: Koko3 | November 25, 2009 8:32 AM | Report abuse

You're the last person who should comment on this. What are you and your ilk scared of? When did Americans become afraid to use our system against terrorists? Why should we run scared? You are offensive, and your former bosses.

Posted by: jckdoors | November 25, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

The "war on terror" Mr Gerson is a label, a sound bite, a slogan. I can't recall the Congress, the only goverment body able to declare war, having issued a declaration of war on terror. To those posters hoping for an acquittal to make the Obama administration look bad, I would question your patriotism and have very serious concerns about your mental health.

Posted by: semajeh | November 25, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Who cares what Gerson has to say? Gerson is a Bushie war criminal and a Jesus Freak!

Posted by: kemcb | November 25, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Whoa, whoa, whoa, NOW you're concerned that this might "inspire" terrorists? It is a proven fact that your old boss signing off on torture (and you saying nothing then) has been the biggest recruitment tool for terrorism. Thanks for your concern, but I'm happy our leaders are now abiding by the Constitution and our values.

Posted by: Rasputin1 | November 25, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

If the US brings the 9/11 "conspirators" to trial anywhere, then it will have to bring the Japanese Generals in charge of every battle in WW2, German General Rommel of North Africa fame, Vietnamese Generals in the Vietnamese War, similarly Taliban in Afghanistan and someone in Iraq.

9/11 was not a war. It was one battle in a war which started when the US supported Israel and the Arab League supported Palestinian Arabs. Other battles included an attack on a Marine barracks in Lebanon, attacks on embassies in Africa, a US navy ship, US attacks on a factory in Khartoum and caves in Afghanistan PRIOR to 9/11. In a sense 9/11 was the Arabs turn.

If the 9/11 conspirators are to be brought to trial then the conspirators in all the above battles must be brought to trial.

The 9/11 conspirators are scapegoats

Art Campbell
Wing Commander (retired)
Ottawa Ontario Canada

Posted by: ArtCampbell | November 25, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

This entire argument boils down to the question of whether terrorists are "enemy combatants" (a term invented, no doubt, to treat them as "soldiers") or simply international criminals. Since their actions are not officially sanctioned by any state, it's hard to come to the conclusion that they are soldiers, or that this is a war in any sense of the definition. Unfortunately, terrorism defies any neat categorization, but it looks a lot more like criminal activity than an act of war. Yes, it involves national security. Similar to espionage, which we treat as a crime against the state, and try in a court of law. No doubt the decision of the AG will be decried by many, as was the decision by John Adams to defend the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre, but it's the right thing to do, and remaining true to our principles trumps any risks adherence presents.

Posted by: mdonnelly1 | November 25, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

"Could he point to a single case in U.S. history in which an enemy combatant caught on the battlefield was tried in civilian court?"
Mr. Bird brain, by your own argument, KSM was not an "enemy combatant caught on the battlefield". Though the horrible thing was his brainchild, he was sleeping in his house in Karachi, like any civilian, when they took him into custody.

Posted by: sarvenk63 | November 25, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Gerson served as President George W. Bush's chief speechwriter from 2001 until June 2006, as a senior policy advisor from 2000 through June 2006, and was a member of the White House Iraq Group.

The defense should Gerson FIRST to the witness stand as the chief propagandist scribe for his boss' degenerate US foreign policy formulation and implementation.

Posted by: HereComesTheJudge | November 25, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

What Gerson has missed is that former Clinton appointee Holder is one of several Clintonites who are hijacking the Obama presidency while two loyal Obamaites have resigned in disgust.
Gerson also missed provisions of the American constitution and international law that govern trials of such persons.
According to the constitution, persons on trial are entitled to a fair proceeding, so Holder was out of line by insisting that acquittals are not an option.
International law distinguishes between persons picked up on a battlefield and those merely kidnapped abroad. Those to be tried in New York were kidnapped abroad and not on any battlefield. Those tried by Holder's military commissions were picked up on the battlefield.
Gerson's righteous indignation is unimpressive because he ignores the context. He could have written a much better column by getting better informed, as he often is.

Posted by: mikehaas | November 25, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Gerson is the one who is out of fresh ideas - still.

Posted by: mikehike | November 25, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

"This is the bravado of a man fresh out of arguments -- made easier because the cost of his “bravery” might be borne by others."

Good grief... Gerson again shows he has no sense of irony. This from the author of the "axis of evil" and "a mushroom cloud as the smoking gun". The man who worked for years for a president that said "Mission Accomplished" and "wanted, dead or alive" and VP that said told us of a "cake walk" and being "greeted as liberators".

And Gerson calls someone else on "bravado"? Gerson must have some dirt on Hiatt. Why else would the Post allow this embarrassment to continue?

Posted by: CardFan | November 25, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Dear Mr. Gerson,
I am deeply disturbed about Attorney General Eric Holder personal decision to let the Sept. 11 conspirators trial be tried in civil court no less in New York. I am also very concerned about the future of our justice system under his tenure. To make this decision by only talking to his wife and brother and not the U.S.leadership is a terrible mistake. We all watched our TV set on 9-11 and our immediate knowledge was a terrorists attack. President Obama himself has acknowledged it. This act will keep lawyers arguing terrorists rights for years to come in our court system. If it take a recall of Mr. Holders position as Attorney General to reverse this decision, let’s get started.

Posted by: psetter | November 25, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Gerson, are you deranged? Can you think of a better, more appropriate place for the 9/11 conspirators to be tried than New York freakin' City? It's called justice. It's called Rule of law. What's the matter with you anyway? Are you completely incapable of viewing anything done by the federal government during the Obama administration objectively? Apparently, not. Why don't you go back to writing speeches for the Bush family, since that appears to be what you do anyway in your WaPo column.

Posted by: LouisianaDoug | November 25, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

There is no need for journalists to report on proceedings from the trial, it's up to the media barrons to decide whether they want to give pubicity to the proceedings. Secondly a criminal trial would establish whether they are guilty or not, the confessions obtained at Gitmo do not establish this fact because as we all know confessions obtained whilst under duress are tainted. It is important to have the trial quickly so that justice can be served. It reflects poorly oh the Bush administation that they did not have the trials eight years ago.

Posted by: mdoyle58 | November 25, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Gerson, and his band of GOP bedwetters, are incredible in their fear mongering and utter contempt for justice. None of them faced justice except for the commuted Libby, so, to them, justice is a non-factor.

Posted by: Lrobby99 | November 25, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

It is clear that Republicans attack the current administration strictly with the intention of attacking. Frequently, the attacks are at odds with statements made previously. I strongly believe that the speakers are simply trying to tear down the administration and know that the substance of the attack is nonsense. This article is a perfect example of that. I heard no Republican objection to civilian trials under the Bush administration. I wish the mainstream media would point this out, instead of passively repeating this drivel.

Posted by: Whylee98 | November 25, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

This decision is neither surprising nor offensive. Holder is more interested in fighting Republicans and putting the Bush Administration on trial than he is in fighting terrorists. Terrorists are guys who sit in caves in Pakistan and nobody voted for them in the recent presidential election. They aren't the enemy. On the other hands, lost of people voted for the evil Republicans in the last election. They are the real enemies. He clearly has his priorities straight: go after the bad guys, and leave Islamic morons with beards alone.

Posted by: Die-HardPub | November 25, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Eric Holder’s most notable accomplishments:

The pardon of Marc Rich
The pardons of Weather Underground members Susan Rosenberg and Linda Evans
Clemency for FALN terrorists

What a guy!

If Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's Sixth Amendment rights were violated, HE WALKS!

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is a prisoner in U.S. custody for alleged acts of terrorism, including mass murder of civilians. He was arrested in 2003. He was charged on February 11, 2008, with war crimes and murder by a U.S. military commission. Lefty lawyers blocked every effort to move ahead.

Defendants in criminal cases have the right to a speedy trial. The U.S. Supreme Court laid down a four-part ad hoc balancing test for determining whether the defendant's speedy trial right has been violated in the case of Barker v. Wingo:

Length of Delay: A delay of a year or more from the date on which the speedy trial right "attaches" (the date of arrest or indictment, WHICHEVER OCCURS FIRST) was termed "presumptively prejudicial."

Reason for the delay: The prosecution may not excessively delay the trial for its own advantage, but a trial may be delayed to secure the presence of an absent witness or other practical considerations.

Time and manner in which the defendant has asserted his right: If a defendant agrees to the delay when it works to his own benefit, he cannot later claim that he has been unduly delayed.

Degree of prejudice to the defendant which the delay has caused.

In Strunk v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled that if the reviewing court finds that a defendant's right to a speedy trial was violated, then the indictment must be dismissed and/or the conviction overturned. The Court has held that, since the delayed trial itself is the state action which violates the defendant's rights, no other remedy would be appropriate. Thus, a reversal or dismissal of a criminal case on speedy trial grounds means that no further prosecution for the alleged offense can take place.

In Boumediene v. Bush, the Supreme Court guaranteed detainees the Constitutional right of habeas corpus. Now, by extension, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE...including the dismissal of all charges. And if you don't think dismissal is possible, see Scalia's dissent in Boumediene v. Bush.

Posted by: SickandTired2 | November 25, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Pathetic Bush-Cheney hack, you mack me sick!

Posted by: mybandy | November 25, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Gerson: Pathetic Cheney-bush hack, you make me sick!

Posted by: mybandy | November 25, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

I don't see that these five accused are given anything. They are being tried for capital crimes and are being held accountable for their deeds near the site of the offenses.

Posted by: RobtBrock | November 25, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I realized during the campaign you can't watch Obama's have to watch his hands. The same is true of Holder. What purpose is served in Federal Court?

What is the difference between those terrorists being thrown before military tribunals and those terrorists appearing in Federal courts? The terrorists being thrown into the federal court system, like KSM, all pose civil liberties and constitutional rights issues (Miranda warning, right to counsel, right to speedy trial, right to remain silent, right against self-incrimination, etc.).

The primary purpose of trying them in federal court is to get a Federal Court to rule that their civil liberties and constitutional rights were violated. The consequences resulting from the application of the Exclusionary Rule is inconsequential to Holder. Getting a conviction is a secondary goal. If getting a conviction was the driving force, there would be no issue.....the cases would be handled by a military tribunal.

So why is it so important to get a Federal Court to hold that constitutional rights were violated??

Because it provides "Exhibit A" for criminal charges against everybody that either:
a) provided a legal opinion that the interrogation techniques were constitutional;
b) ordered the harsh interrogation techniques; or
c) carried out the harsh interrogation techniques.

This is a show pony. Holder wants a Federal Court to hold that the civil liberties and constitutional rights of the terrorists were violated so he can use it to go after Cheney, CIA operatives and any other high ranking official from the Bush Administration.

In Holder's eyes, a conviction would be nice...but evidence against the prior administration is an elixor for which he is willing to jeopardize those convictions and suffer the consequences of the Exclusionary Rule.

The goal of the Obama Administration has nothing to do with bringing terrorists to justice. It has everything to do with criminalizing the Bush Administration. If this happens, we truly have become a Banana Republic and 230 years of peaceful transition of power will cease. Every new administration will focus more time, effort and energy on prosecuting the previous administration than moving this country forward.

Posted by: lawdog1 | November 25, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

I never understood why we fed the egos of these criminals - yes, they are criminals and should be tried as such - by affording them military tribunals in the first place. Isn't it clear that doing so only inflated their status as 'warriors'?

While some may disagree, I think criminal court is the appropriate venue. Is there a chance for acquittal? Sure. But there was also that chance with a military tribunal -- unless Holder's critics are prepared to admit the outcome was predetermined under the tribunals. In that case, what's the point of a trial? Just administer swift justice and be done with it.

Posted by: EnemyOfTheState | November 25, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Give me a friggin' break! First, are you still on defending your ridiculous article condemning this decision?

But beyond just attacking the absurdity of your rhetoric, the substance of your arguments are just not based in reality. You refer to the interview Holder gave to Jim Lehrer, quoting at length a part of the interview where Holder stated that he had discussed the issue with his wife and brother. You imply that in making this decision, those were the only people he talked to. However, the question the Holder was answering was whether he had talked with anyone outside of government. That is a critical point.

You seem to argue that he just made this decision based on his belief that the so-called "war on terror" is really a law enforcement matter. However, there is every reason to believe that the decision was made in consultation with other experienced lawyers at DOJ, including prosecutors in New York who will try the case (and, by the way, have experience in trying terrorist suspects).

As for your point about Holder's statement that "failure is not an option" and your claim that it is contrary to principles of due process, that too is a false claim. It is quite clear that he meant that DOJ cannot fail in its prosecution of KSM, not that the court must convict. It is disingenuous to claim otherwise.

Finally, KSM was NOT captured on the battlefield. He was no captured by US forces with a weapon in hand. He was arrested by Pakistani authorities and was handed over to the US. That sounds a lot like an arrest to me.

That is not the same as detaining someone on the battlefield -- an individual who has just been shooting at you, or who is caught setting up an IED, or is otherwise actively engaged in combat with US forces. That is what is meant by "an enemy captured on the battlefield." An arrest MAKES it a law enforcement matter.

And any suggesting otherwise makes the concept of rule of law meaningless. WIthout such a distinction, any person could be arrested anywhere and could be held indefinitely since the executive could merely declare them enemy combatants. Such a situation subverts the rule of law.

And by the way, certain rights guarantees by the Constitution apply to all people, not just citizens.

You should at least get your facts straight before you try to defend your indefensible position...

Posted by: DM_Inf | November 25, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

One more thing, the Attorney General is under no obligation to consult with the president about a decision involving prosecutorial discretion. In fact, to involve the president in such a decision would risk politicizing such a decision. That is definitely contrary to our values...

See, once again, the rule of law.

Mr. Gerson, you might try to brush up on what that term actually means.

Posted by: DM_Inf | November 25, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

One must ask - Under our current form of government does an AG have the authority to make this decision. The answer is NO. Only the POTUS can make that call. So, Barry had to give his blessing before Holder could proceed.

If anything happening from this..anything..then Holder will be forced to resign and the man/child will be looking at a call for IMPEACHMENT. Especially, if NYC is hit with a terror attack because of this clown show and stupid decision. Regardless Barry is a one term POTUS.

You dirt eaters and tree huggers can scream and post insults at Mr. Gerson, because that's what you do best, but Mr. Gerson is spot on in his article.

Let the dirt people scream!!!!

Posted by: Loadmaster | November 25, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

holder is obama's brownie.

even sarah palin wouldnt claim she consulted her spouse and brother in making a decision like this, but not the president.

this decision itself is dumb if for no other reason than there is zero upside.

it also preverts our civilian legal system. the president of the united states has said this guy is guilty and will get the death penalty. thats the sort of thing that happens third world coutnries. any pretense of fairness is gone, and our civilian justice system will look hypocritical to the world.

not that i care much what the world thinks of us, but liberals do, and they will be underwhelmed by the world's reaction to this circus, already corrupted trial.

Posted by: dummypants | November 25, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

There are a lot of anti-American liberal fasicst Democrats living in New York who will be overjoyed at the prospect of this butcher being given a spotlight and a stage by Rahm Emanuel, America's premier terrorist supporter, and his puppets Obama and Holder. This trial will not demonstrate America's commitment to justice, it will demonstrate liberal fascism's commitment to destroying America and everything it stands for. We can all thank justice Anthony Kennedy for this shameful situation.

Posted by: doctorfixit | November 25, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Of course Obama approved this decision. In fact he must have ordered it. There's no way any AG makes such a call (with international implications and also national defense at risk) with NO input from the Commander in Chief. And why are they doing it? Some say it's to put the Bush administration on trial, but I doubt it. After all, nobody but ultra-Leftists would buy that anti-Bush nonsense at this point. IMO it's because Obama wants to drive home the point that there is no War on Terror. He views terrorists as common criminals to be tried in civilian courts. Of course, the problem with that is police only respond AFTER the crime is committed and have little authority to prevent crimes in the first place. This was Clinton's approach and it got us 911.

Posted by: JohnR22 | November 25, 2009 5:08 PM | Report abuse

It continues to be astonishing how utterly devoid of any objectivity the supporters of this administration continue to be. Gerson has authored a very clear argument for why this was a poor decision and the ribbon of rebuttals on here by his critics, as usual, fails to debate the argument on merit and shouts Halliburton et al. Zombies all of them. If I hear one more lib on a soap box talk about how this decision adheres to our rules of law I am going to hurl. It is demonstrably true that it does not. There is no precedent for this. The fact that Holder made a whimsical decision that did NOT involve researching precedent but DID involve talking to his wife should scare the bleep out of all of us. The fact that the president doesn't think this decision is significant enough to require his direct involvement is astonishing. I also happen to believe that it simply is not true. Holder has been set up as the fall guy for when this inevitably blows up in Obama's face. And we will all once again be asked to believe that the man who could not recognize the obvious moral and legal flaws of men like Wright, Ayers, Rezko, Jones, etc. also did not know that Holder was an incompetent fool. The buck stops "there" with Obama.

Posted by: jordonmcconnell | November 25, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Let's see: If I'm a terrorist and I attack a military target (say, Ft. Hood, Texas or the USS Cole) then I get a military tribunal. But, if I attack civilians, then I am tried in Civil Court. So, I have more rights if I attack civilians. Doesn't this give terrorists an additional incentive to attack civilians because, if they are caught, they have more rights than if they attack a military target?

In effect, Holder has made American civilians "human shields" to protect our combat troops. They will be attacked in preference to a miliary target. I had previously believed it was illegal under the Geneva Conventions to use civilians to protect combat troops.

Osama bin Laden, KSM and Major Hasan are already heroes to Muslims. They danced in the streets of the West Bank in wild celebration when the buildings fell on 9-11. Bin Laden's countenace is displayed on TEE-shirts worn by Muslims. Giving them a forum from which to spew their views on American foregin policy (is that really a defense to premeditated mass murder?) is the act of a nut - not merely the act of a man who did not think the matter through.

And when the inevitable happens, and the terrorists strike again, perhaps by taking a school full of kids hostage (as they did in Beslan) or a theatre full of people hostage (Moscow) and hold them pending KSM's release, who will Holder and Obama blame? Bush?

New Yorkers voted overwhelmingly for this crowd and now, karma like, they are getting their deserts. Perhaps it was these voters who failed to think matters through. My advice: Move out of New York - now.

Remember, Holder was the guy who helped free the FALN/Puerto Rican terrorists during the late Clinton years. Exactly how this man was confirmed by the Senate as our AG is unclear. Those senators - of either party - who voted for that confirmation should be voted out of office at the earlies opportunity. After all, they are yet another group that is unable to think matters through before they act.

Posted by: rick0101 | November 25, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

This was Obama's decision. Eric Holder may be trying to give him cover like he did President Clinton when he enabled the most corrupt pardon in U.S. history, but the Buck Stops on The President's Desk!!! Holder's testimony made a mockery of President Obama's decision to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to give these murdering terrorists OJ like Circus trials and a world stage. We had a taste of what is to come the other day on cable news when a lawyer for one of the mudering terrorists flatly refused to call the planes slamming into the two towers even an act of murder. He said it was for the jury to decide. After all maybe it was really the fault of the U.S. and all those guilty people in the planes & towers because of U.S. foreign policy. It will be interesting to see how the insanity plays out. Can you imagine democrats going into the 2010 elections with Circus trials going on in which murdering terrorists are telling the world day after day after day how justified they were to murder all those people? Of course, that may be Obama's plan. If he gets a Republican Congress in 2010 he will at least have someone to blame going into 2012 for the massive failures of his radical left wing ideology.

Posted by: valwayne | November 25, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

So...if all of you guys who are posting comments about how proper it is to try these five subhumans in civilian court feel so strongly about it, why aren't you outraged that the Cole attackers and other detainess are having military trials? Where is the outrage?

Meanwhile, a large number of New Yorkers continue with their conceit that only THEY were attacked on 9/11 and only THEY should have the right to try the 9/11 perpetrators, etc. They continue on with comments about how long-suffering they are and how brave they are, given that they live with the threat of terrorists attacks on a daily basis and more than everyone else in the country. If all of that is true, maybe instead of asking, "Why do the terrorists hate America so much?" we should be asking, "Why do the terrorists hate New York so much?" To which I can give several very good reasons.

Posted by: RedderThanEver | November 25, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Hey redderthan ever,

Were you anywhere near the towers when the fire engulfed thousands of civilians and hundreds of our police officers and firefighters? Obviously not. Well, I was, a block away, interviewing for a job, before going back to the conference I was supposed to attend on he first floor of the Marriott Hotel in WTC 1.

I saw people throwing themselves out of broken windows. I saw the towers collapse. I experienced it all, including meeting with people who lost their brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and best friends on 9/11. Who gives you the right to call me arrogant? You have not lived through 9/11 and the enormous damage it did to our beloved city. Who made you king?

Posted by: Gatsby10 | November 25, 2009 6:43 PM | Report abuse

sembtex, you are emblematic of the idiocy running amok in america. so hell bent on Bush's "crimes" that anything is fodder for your zealotry, even guys who blow up buildings and kill 3000 innocent civilians. you, not gerzon, are the center of what's wrong with america. pretty sure no one would miss you if you happened to just leave.....

Posted by: subframer | November 25, 2009 6:50 PM | Report abuse

RedderThanEver - another class clown.

so sorry you had to endure that, Gatsby.....

Posted by: subframer | November 25, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

This is a purely political decision that will have many negative unintended consequences. Why reward terrorist for killing civilians in the US by giving them all of the rights of US citizens, but give military tribunals if you kill outside of the US? Isn't Holder encouraging terrorist to attack the homeland, since if they are caught, they can have a chance of getting off on a technicality? And wasn't the Pentagon attacked on 9/11? That is a military facility and they are not having the trials in Washington. This sets a dangerous precedent (it has never happened in the history of the US). If Bin Laden is every caught, he will also get the rights of a US citizen since he would meet the crazy criteria that Holder made up by himself out of whole cloth.

Posted by: ronrawson | November 25, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Gerson is just worried that once we start peeling the onion, the world will realize that he himself, with his boss Cheney, are the masterminds of 9/11, not KSM.

Posted by: stanlippmann | November 25, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: rlj1 | November 25, 2009 7:04 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Gerson,

This decision is much worse than embarassing and offensive. Mr. Holder is criminally negligent in this decision, and only an insanity defense could acquit him of culpability for a treasonous act.

During the Bush years the democrats were hypersensitive to any hint of a suggestion that they might not be patriotic enough in supporting our troops in the war on terror. They would squeal denials and feign faux offense, when no one accused them of lack of patriotism. But now that a democrat occupies White House, the mask has slipped.

The hate-filled Bush deranged antiwar base to which Obama & Holder belong and
are actively pandering demand their "reckoning" with the previous administration,
no matter what the security implications for the country, no matter how damaging to our intelligence capabilities or soldiers in the field; this from the same people who claimed that Valerie Plame who was not an intelligence agent possessing any national security secrets had been "outed" for political reasons.

Holder has already politicized the war on terror by threathening present and former
CIA and DOJ officials with prosecution. Now in sending KSM to a civilian court,
endangering not only New Yorkers who will have to deal with an ongoing security nightmare, but all Americans risking another more deadly attack on US soil, all for no logical reason or necessity at all, Obama & Holder have crossed the line.

Can any liberal in good conscience concerned about the rule of law please explain how fair a trial can be in which the President and AG publicly "guarantee" a conviction?

If KSM is nevertheless convicted after this travesty of a show trial and after being waterboarded, do you believe that this will be a good precedent for future trials of controversial civilian defendants?

This is such a bad decision on so many levels, for so many reasons.

Enough is enough. It is time to demand for Holder to go.

As you say, Obama has "plausible deniability" about being involved in the decision (itself a mind boggling statement of the detachedness of Obama from presidential decisions no longer above his pay grade). So he may throw Holder under the bus, where he richly belongs.

Meantime delay any transfer of terrorists to American soil until we can get a marginally sane AG. Keep Guantanamo open and try these Islamoterrorists there in a military tribunal which follows the rule of law established for 200 years in such cases.

Then hang them.

Posted by: blackmage | November 25, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

"I honestly don't see where this is a bad thing . . . we show the world that we live our values . . ."

I'm confused --- which cherished "American values" concerning our system of justice are you talking about: (1) President Obama's and AG Holder's declaration in advance of any evidence or trial that they are dead certain KSM is guilty and will be convicted by the jury? (2) Assurances that New York as the scene of the crime is the ideal place to try KSM because the jurors as personally involved are virtually certain to convict? (3) Confident assertions by the AG in advance of any potential defense evidence that KSM will get the death penalty? (4) Statements by AG Holder that even if KSM is acquitted he will never see the light of day.

Oops . . . this trial is to display to the world THOSE values. It almost sounds almost like the justice system in a banana republic, doesn't it?

Posted by: prosecutor1 | November 25, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Would someone please help my obviously inept conservative mind ... but I just don't understand how it's constitutional to give a non-American the rights we enjoy as American citizens. Too many of the comments above only serve to convince me that's it's not about KSM, it's about GWB.

Posted by: jsirko | November 25, 2009 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Even the big O realizes that he's toast in the next election. So what to do? Put this in court and drag it out for a year or two and then drag Bush and Cheney into it. Seems he fears having to run without those two to demean. Obama was a horrible error on the part of the American voters. He's dumb as a rock, but only his handlers know that at this point. You can dispute that if you wish, but what is the logical or practical reasons to withhold all of his college records? Other, that is, than to show that he was toward the bottom of his classes and never produced anything of substance. A year as president of Harvard Law Review and he produced not one paper? This guy's a dim bulb with a good voice. Too bad you people didn't see that earlier.

Posted by: edhornyak | November 25, 2009 8:05 PM | Report abuse

The impetus behind this decision is clear: to embarrass, and perhaps indict, Bush Administration officials. There is absolutely no other upside for the current crop of politicians at the top of the food chain. This is what their core constituency, the American far-left, has been panting for.

We discovered that Holder is a half-baked hack when he uttered his deeply offensive comments regarding Americans' "cowardice" in racial matters, apparently not realizing the irony of making such a statement within weeks of millions of people of all races voting to elect a black president!

His current bad judgment will come back to haunt all of us. The man is not fit to serve as Attorney General.

Posted by: SoCalConservative | November 25, 2009 8:08 PM | Report abuse

This is a great article by Mr. Gerson.

Holder is an unbelievably partisan, political, cynical hack... I tend to believe this was cleared with Obama before he left, just that Obama didn't want to hang around to catch the heat. As we all know, Obama likes to blame things on other people... and he is smart enough to figure out this may not go well - this way, Obama can fire Holder and blame him if things go wrong.

What do non-believably incompetent liberal partisan group of political hacks... this country is cursed with these people.

Posted by: wilsan | November 25, 2009 8:37 PM | Report abuse

It is very telling by reading these comments that those who hate the Obama Presidency, are the most vocal about calling those who defend the powers of the Constitution, vile names.
They are for the most part men who never had the courage or patriotic fervor to defend this nation in uniform. They like to carry guns and talk tough about blowing people up and smearing any human beings who don't hold their white privilege beliefs and the racist attitudes, but none of their convictions pass the smell test.
Like the draft dodgers in Bush and Cheney's regime, they are all talk and no guts. Stand them in front of one these beaten down terrorists and they'd cry like the babies they are. New Yorkers don't need whining from the Bushie boys, as they have stood up to terrorists before and those terrorists were prosecuted under existing American laws and have been jailed for years and will stay there forever.
Gerson is also a draft dodging sissy-boy who's never had the gumption to defend this nation, and talks tough while hiding behind his rightwing skirts. The real reason these wimps don't ever want the terrorists brought to trial is because they are afraid it will be the road to the World Court for some of them, like the cowardly Cheney. Bush allowed over 200 Saudis to be released from Gitmo and flown to Saudi Arabia without telling the American people and no one in the Republikkklan party said a word.
No one today is claiming they'll come back and blow us up again. Why is that Mr. Gerson? What else are you going to keep whining about?
Are you so afraid that Barack Obama, a decent American like most of us who actually love the Constitution, might be successful and that you all will continue to be the party of whine, whine, whine and no, no, no.
You bigotted haters are afraid of your own shadows and certainly not good Americans. We have nothing to fear from serving justice the way our Constitution provides for. The fear is in the Republikkklan party and their supporters who don't care about truth and the American way. They prefer to live in ignorance and hatred, too lazy to face the truth.
Five pathetic muslims and their fake religious beliefs are no match for America. They can make any claims they want to and those claims will only help to bury them in one of our nice New York prisons. A fitting end to evil the American way.

Posted by: papafritz571 | November 25, 2009 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Of course Obama signed off on this. How could he not? It agrees with his twisted vision of terrorism (the offense that dare not speak its name) as a crime. It is certainly up to his pay grade. And it throws a bone to his lefty-leaning apologists who can't wait to put the United States on trial.

Holder is just a patsy who will take the fall if anything goes wrong. Given the myriad possibilities, we can be certain Mr,. Holdler will be falling soon.

Posted by: CEBFburg | November 25, 2009 10:09 PM | Report abuse


Big words there Papa Fritz... and just exactly what is your background?

Most Republican conservatives I know, and I know a great many, have served in the military... I was a Marine in Vietnam 40 years ago... indeed the military today is made up more of conservatives than liberals. I know this because my son is in the military.

So no offense there Papa... what is your background?

Posted by: wilsan | November 25, 2009 10:20 PM | Report abuse

"Yeah, okay. So Holder -- in making a decision about a leader from an international terrorist organization currently in combat with American troops abroad -- consulted with his wife and brother."

Yeah, okay. So Gerson's old boss -- in making a decision that opened up a whole new country to that same international terrorist organization, allowing them to kill thousands of American soldiers -- consulted with God alone, not even his "earthly father" who had actually gone to war against the same foe.

Gerson made his living shilling for people who made more terrorists than any trial in New York ever will. It's preposterous he has a regular column in the Post. Is the Post now the Army of the Republic of Vietnam -- "[Blank] up and move up?" Do knowledge, competence and a sense of shame (or at least irony) count for nothing anymore? Gerson's people created this predicament from hell when they tortured detainees, as if they could be held until they died without any sort of hearing. He needs to shut up about this stuff -- and about just about everything else, too.

Posted by: chicagopatrick | November 25, 2009 10:36 PM | Report abuse


No one made me king nor do I claim to be one. It's you who said you were giving the middle finger to me and others who dare to disagree with you. It's me and others like me who want these subhumans to die ignominiously. It's you who wants to convey upon them the same rights that you and I enjoy and give them a pulpit from which to pontificate. You're the one trying to be king with your decrees and disparagement of anyone who isn't a New Yawker.

Posted by: RedderThanEver | November 25, 2009 10:37 PM | Report abuse


Read my very first post.

Posted by: RedderThanEver | November 25, 2009 10:38 PM | Report abuse

Yes, for a man who worked in the administration of George W Bush in which every decision was politically motivated as is well documented now, the idea that an attorney general would operate independently of the White House, just the way he's supposed to, must be appalling for Michael Gerson.

The Attorneys General working under Bush were directed by the partisan political arm of the White House to the point of screening who they hired to make sure federal prosecutors were Republicans. Everything the AG did seemed part of a partisan, Republican strategy.

What Gerson seems to actually not realize is that Holder's saying that he didn't simply do what Obama directed is exactly the way it's supposed to work.

After the scandals and corruption of the Attorney General's office of the past eight years, to have the person who was responsible for trying to defend these practices attacking the current AG for actually doing it correctly is the height of absurdity.

Otherwise known as the current day extreme right wing Washington Post, business as usual.

Posted by: BillEPilgrim | November 25, 2009 11:12 PM | Report abuse

The AG isn't supposed to consult the president, he is supposed to do what is legally correct. We are supposed to think its horrible when we act as a civilized nation and put suspected wrongdoers on trial. I guess Mr. Gerson and his supporting yahoos thinks it's better when an AG like Alberto Gonzales takes his directives from Carl Rove and we torture and kill people without trial. These America haters who don't like the constitution can live somewhere else where they don't have its protection.

Posted by: Bowerguy1 | November 25, 2009 11:23 PM | Report abuse

jsirko wrote:

"Would someone please help my obviously inept conservative mind ... but I just don't understand how it's constitutional to give a non-American the rights we enjoy as American citizens. Too many of the comments above only serve to convince me that's it's not about KSM, it's about GWB."

Do you actually think that people in the US are only tried, convicted, and sentenced if they're "US citizens", and otherwise, if they're not, then they're just summarily executed?

This idea of Michael Gerson's that "only US citizens" are given due process made me blink when I read it, it was so absurd. If you commit a crime in the US, we don't first check passports and then just shoot the ones who don't have one and try the others. Trying criminals, of any nationality, in a court of law is how we operate, it doesn't amount to bestowing "full American citizenship rights" on anyone, that's a ridiculous idea.

Now, if you want to claim that these are not criminals but instead enemy soldiers, then you have an even bigger problem, because simply executing prisoners of war is illegal and immoral in more ways than I can list here.

It's also bestowing on KSM for example exactly what he wants, to call him a "soldier". He's not, he's a religiously-motivated fanatic and a criminal. This is how he should be treated. By doing so we act like a nation of laws, directly in contrast to these criminals who simply decided to take it into their own hands to execute so many people.

Posted by: BillEPilgrim | November 25, 2009 11:26 PM | Report abuse

Holder is an idiot. If the jury consists of Liberals from the Upper West Side, KSM could be acquitted.

Posted by: edgar_sousa | November 25, 2009 11:50 PM | Report abuse

The first commenter wrote: "we show the world that we live our values." No, the trial of anyone from Guantanomo does not show this American's values. Having declared the defendants will be convicted and receive the death penalty, the attorney general and the President himself have made it clear this is a show trial where the verdict and sentence are known in advance. Those are the values of Adolph Hitler and Josef Stalin and every other dictator/godly emperor in history. They are not my values, the values of a free American citizen. And tomorrow, I am going to express my thanks for that at Thanksgiving.

Posted by: sailhardy | November 26, 2009 12:27 AM | Report abuse

Excellent perspective, and realistic. Holder's "announcement" is outrageous! Notice my characterization. If the President was "informed"; he was "consulted"; without "objection", it became the President's decision.
Any spin to the contrary ignores where the "buck stops". Either Holder is a loose cannon doing his own thing or this is an action blessed by the President because he knew of it and could have stopped it.

Our President is either a weak or naive leader, probably both.

Posted by: oparoberts | November 26, 2009 2:00 AM | Report abuse

If we are a nation of law then why is Holder going against the very law signed by Obama earlier this year, the National Defense Authorization Act, clearly stating that these terrorists are war criminals and that not only are the military tribunals the appropriate place for them to be tried (clearly expressed in the law) but they are in full compliance with the Geneva Convention and the Supreme Court.

Posted by: no_USSA | November 26, 2009 2:23 AM | Report abuse

Your column (as usual) is embarrassing and offensive.

I would far sooner err on the side of being a country which follows its Constitution and the rule of law, rather than what we saw from you and your friends during the last eight years:

- Disregard for the Constitution
- Disregard for the Geneva Convention
- Disregard for long-standing military law
- Torturing of prisoners (including many who were most likely totally innocent)
- Illegal spying on American citizens
- Claims that you had the right to detain (and presumably also torture) *anyone* who the President declared to be an enemy combatant, even U.S. citizens!!!

Yes, Islamist extremist is a grave threat. But the threat from extra-Constitutionalism from within alarms me much more. It amazes me to hear the teabaggers shouting "Fascism" and "Nazi" at the current administration, when it was the last administration that took us dangerously in this direction.

If we can't deal with Islamist extremists without observing our Constitution, preserving our civility and respecting the rule of law, then we don't have much left worth defending.

Posted by: PaulG2 | November 26, 2009 3:39 AM | Report abuse


You are an id*ot. And you are adding insult to the injuries that we, New Yorkers, suffered on 9/11/2001 and its aftermath.

Posted by: Gatsby10 | November 26, 2009 5:28 AM | Report abuse

What a bunch of malarky this thing about "show the world that we liver our values." Good Lord! In a matter like this, make decisions based upon what the "world think about us" is just simply non-sense. What should be considered first is that the USA was attacked and over 3000 people were killed, second is the fact that we are at war (it is not a civilian court matter), third the matter of security is what should be considered. We are saying to the world: "we want to be politically correct!" Political correctness matter more than people's safety and the rules of war? People, can anyone think with some common sense?

Posted by: josedfarias | November 26, 2009 6:03 AM | Report abuse

God says the natural man (one who is secular, no spiritual perception) has an unsound mind (sick mind) and boy, are we witnessing this when reading so many non-sense comments here. But I guess, the issue here is that Gerson wrote this article on the Washington Post, one of the left wing publications, perhaps only behind the NYT. And people sure like to use insults to maker their points. Interesting, by reading the comments here it is so clear that people rather punish the Bush administration rather than the terrorists. Good Lord! How does that make any sense?

Posted by: josedfarias | November 26, 2009 6:28 AM | Report abuse

Honestly, I'm here to be swayed. Let's forget about Gerson's past and examine the issue on legal grounds. I need to hear from an expert Constitutional lawyer that it is the correct thing to do to try these men in a civilian court rather than a military one.

Presumably, Holder did not make this decision independently, but in G's column that is not clear. To give Holder the benefit of the doubt, his answers to Lehrer were based on his assumption that Lehrer was referring to anyone outside of lawyers in the Justice Dep't.

I find it inconceivable that he did not consult with Obama as well. If he did not, that tells me that he is indeed a loose cannon.

My initial reaction to the news of his decision was purely gut, based on fears for the safety of New Yorkers, security problems and so forth, anticipating that the trial will bring out the crazies in full force. It might be like a Roman circus.

In my very humble opinion, the attacks on 9/11 were an act of war like Pearl Harbor. And really, to distinguish between them and the sabotage of the Cole is pretty pointless.

Well, this too will play itself out. Not everyone will be satisfied except maybe the pundits for whom it is more fodder.

And so it goes.

Posted by: moran1 | November 26, 2009 6:34 AM | Report abuse

I do not buy this argument of "showing our values," and from what I can see, Holder does not either since he starts with the assumption that those terrorists will be found guilty anyway. Isn't that a contradiction of one of the basic principles of a trial? This is a show, costing tax payer quite a bit of money (I do not mind tax payer money being used for the right reasons: like to promote security of the American people - I do mind waste), this is a trial of the Bush administration, as clearly demonstrated by many comments here, though, Holder himself denies that.

Posted by: josedfarias | November 26, 2009 6:35 AM | Report abuse

All you loony LIBERALS won't be happy until this country is dismantled and becomes what you all strive for...A THIRD WORLD RAT HOLE.

Due to your crying and pandering, three of our bravest Navy Seals now face criminal charges for capturing one of the leaders in the terrorist world. This poor terrorist claimed he was ABUSED and treated cruelly by the NAVY SEALS.

NOW they face criminal charges for doing their jobs.

Thanks to the communists in this administration this country is sliding downhill real fast. Really wants our young folks to serve this clown.

Posted by: frankn1 | November 26, 2009 7:28 AM | Report abuse

Has Obama outsourced all decision making to his subordinates and other branches of government??

He did so with Health Care (Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid), and look how that has worked!!

Seems that he has done the same with GITMO, and look where that has led us!!

Is he just incapable of making decisions??

I am so very disappointed in this president. He is increasingly appearing to be an arrogant narcissist, fearful of making decisions, but blaming everyone else on his personal failures.


Posted by: wheeljc | November 26, 2009 7:35 AM | Report abuse

It strains credulity to the breaking point for Holder to assert that he did not consult with Obama before deciding to try KSM in New York.

Posted by: mmcsorley | November 26, 2009 8:29 AM | Report abuse

This is the right call, I have no idea where the author is coming from. Where should these people have their trial? A secret eastern european prison? A military base behind closed doors with no accountability?
How would that make us any different than those we condemn?

Posted by: againstthecurrents | November 26, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

It makes no sense to afford foreign terrorists constitutional rights of American citizens. The only way this can be seen is that it is a diversion to take the spot light off legislation important to the administration.

Posted by: rodhug | November 26, 2009 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Obama was informed, so he had the opportunity to disagree and stop this travesty. He didn't, so he owns this as much as Holder does.

Posted by: MaDr | November 26, 2009 8:47 AM | Report abuse

It is apparent from the lack of outrage reflected in the responses here why this administration is getting away with this nonsense. So for your edification, let me point some things out to you:

1. The United States of America is a sovereign nation.
2. The Constitution is the law of the land here.
3. Enemy combatants, pirates, and international terrorists have NO rights: not international, not American, nada.
4. KSM and cohorts are international terrorists engaged in radical Islamic jihad.
5. In the United States, jihad is equal to treason.
6. Providing aid and comfort to the enemy is treason.
7. The AG does not have the right or the authority to confer Constitutional rights upon enemies of the United States.
8. The AG does not have the right or the authority to violate Federal law prohibiting terrorists from entering the United States.
9. Holder has violated Federal law, committed treason and needs to be impeached.

You know darned well that if this boneheaded decision had been made by Ashcroft, Gonzales, or Mukasey during Bush's tenure, you'd be - rightly - screaming in the streets and clamoring for political heads to roll. Just because your American Idol and his terrorist sympathizer AG do it does not make it either desirable or legal.

Posted by: elephant4life | November 26, 2009 8:54 AM | Report abuse

If there is one thing you can rely on with conservatives like Gerson, it is their petulant reaction when they are subjected to the same sort of rhetoric they use against Liberals every single day. It is beyond obvious that Gerson was stung by the word "cowering". But, in my estimation, Holder's use of that word was perfectly appropriate.

Conservatives have literally bored us to death with their sanctimonious devotionals to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the rights declared and codified therein respectively, as natural, universal rights. Now that it has become inconvenient to hold to that position,the conservatives--never a group of thinkers to concern themselves with the value of shame--are now trying to tell the world that no, those are reserved only for American citizens.

The truth is, Gerson and the conservatives truly are cowering and they are cowards. But don't worry Gerson. Apparently if these asinine polls are to be believed the sheepish, dumb American voters are just as much a cowering herd of cattle as are the conservatives.

This was a courageous decision because anyone could have predicted that this pathetidc shameless bunch on the right would use it cynically to pander to the worst fears and prejudices of the American people who--as H. L. Mencken righteously and accurately asserted--never disappointed those who would gamble on underestimating the intelligence of.

Posted by: jaxas | November 26, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

It is you Mickey G. who are embarrassing and offensive and living proof that GOP stands for Gutless Old Pussy.

Posted by: secretaryofspite | November 26, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Has Obama outsourced all decision making to his subordinates and other branches of government??

He did so with Health Care (Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid), and look how that has worked!!

Seems that he has done the same with GITMO, and look where that has led us!!

Is he just incapable of making decisions??

I am so very disappointed in this president. He is increasingly appearing to be an arrogant narcissist, fearful of making decisions, but blaming everyone else on his personal failures.


Posted by: wheeljc | November 26, 2009 7:35 AM
I have a theory about that. If you postulate that there is substance to the "birther" issue, whether in terms of birthplace or sworn allegiance to another country, AND if you stipulate that all of his confederates know that there is substance thereto, AND if you allow that the subtext of the conspiracy has been "just get me in office and keep me there, and you can do whatever you want", then does every appointment, every decision, every policy deferral, make sense. Even Biden, while probably not originally in on it, now knows that he is up to his eyeballs and will go down with the ship.

Consider: Pelosi signed off on his eligibility - her payout is carte blanche in Congress. Reid leads the Senate, which certified the electoral college results and confirmed Holder and all the other radical appointments - his payout is Health Care, Cap and Trade, etc. Holder has been the gatekeeper of the myriad lawsuits against Obama, et al, from refusing to file responses, to making the American taxpayer foot the bill for Obama's defense (even Clinton knew he had to pay his own legal fees), even to the point of planting clerks in the Supreme Court and the California Central District Court, the former to obliterate all record from the docket, the latter to write the dismissal opinion, complete with unsubstantiated commentary derogating the plaintiffs. Holder's payout is ensuring that the terrorist clients of his law firm are acquitted, and that he is given free rein to overturn or ignore any law he finds inconvenient, from election/civil rights law violations to RICO to bankruptcy law - you name it. Emanuel thinks he is the Prime Minister, and certainly is making more policy than our so called head of state, and Axelrod is in charge of propaganda.

This is a clear case of one hand washing the other. Obama won't fire Holder, rein in Pelosi, Emanuel, or Axelrod, or in any way step on any toes, no matter what the consequences to our nation, because they all know where the bodies are buried, and if he throws any of them under the bus, the truth will come out. At best, he will stand back and let them take their lumps, while having the rest of the team throw up as many obstacles as possible to obstruct justice.

Nixon was clean by comparison.

Posted by: elephant4life | November 26, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Ted Bundy had "American citizenship with all its rights" and where did that get him?

Posted by: Marcaurelius | November 26, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Gerson, you worked for and supported the presidency of George W. Bush. THAT is what you should regard as 'embarrassing and offensive.'

Posted by: Marcaurelius | November 26, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

TRAITOR: One who betrays anothers trust. Is false to an obligation and or Duty.

JIHADISTS: "HOLY WARRIOR" that fights JIHAD "HOLY WAR" the only law RADICAL ISLAM JIHADIST believe in is the Quran!! Shari law!!

America needs to march on New York City and surround the courthouse. Let the JIHADIST and All enemies foreign and DOMESTIC know. We will fight you till the end!! We demand that the JIHADIST denounce their JIHAD or be beheaded immediatly!!

Three Navy SEALS are on trial for being too rough with a JIHADIST. The Marines,Sailors,Soldiers and Airmen need to come together. TAKE NO MORE PRISONERS!!!

How can we be POLITICALLY CORRECT to JIHADISTS that believe in 9th Century JIHAD!! The JIHADIST and the world is not UPSET at America any more but LAUGHING at us!

Posted by: 79USMC83 | November 26, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

If these "conspirators" are brought to trial before any court, then the planners of every US action in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq where civilians were attacked, must also stand trial. 9/11 was one battle in a war between supporters of Israel and supporters of Palestinian Arabs.

I think it would be wise to hold these people as prisoners of war until the war, however you want to describe it, is over.

Posted by: ArtCampbell | November 26, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

As I said in my earlier post, since there are millions of KSM wannabees out there anyway, I hope this guy and his cohorts are acquitted, just so I can enjoy the reaction of people such as yourself, as well as the two clowns Holder and Obowma.

Posted by: RedderThanEver | November 25, 2009 8:16 AM | Report abuse


I am so very glad that you want to see YOUR COUNTRY be submitted to another TERRORIST attack all in the name of proving holder and OBOWMA.

This is exactly what AMERICA DOES NOT NEED. People who all in all want to see OBAWMA fail at all costs no matter the consequences. You would not see an attack on AMERICA as a bad thing for the people but as a GOOD THING just to hurt OBOWMA.

You people probably actually PRAY for an attack to happen just so you can rant more about OBOWMA. Your cavalier attitude about watching the potential failure of our country as a means of humiliating OBAMA is disgusting.

AND then there is this comment:
You know darned well that if this boneheaded decision had been made by Ashcroft, Gonzales, or Mukasey during Bush's tenure, you'd be - rightly - screaming in the streets and clamoring for political heads to roll. Just because your American Idol and his terrorist sympathizer AG do it does not make it either desirable or legal.

YEAH WELL from all testimony, ASHCROFT was in his own holy war wanting to wipe every MUSLIM off the face of the earth because it is GOD's will. GONZALEZ is a total loon who cannot seem to remember the simplest conversation. AND THEN there is the lovely TORTURE issue where you all feel that it is right and justifiable to TORTURE people you hate. TORTURE is never right --NEVER. GOD does not condone and CHIMPIE BUSH, CHENEY, RUMSFELD, GONZOLEZ etc had absolutely NO RIGHT TO USE MY NAME to say that AMERICAN can torture.

ANd as for the trials, I WILL NEVER EVER apologize for our countries standards of a fair trial. Our judicial system is the best and if you don't believe that then you are NOT A PATRIOT, but an idiot with a mindset all the same as the TALIBAN

Posted by: kare1 | November 26, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

No, Mike, Cheney shooting his friend in the face was embarrassing and offensive. Bush spending the weekend in CA during Katrina was embarrassing and offensive. The Bush Administration's economic injustice was embarrassing and offensive. The attempt to privatize Social Security was embarrassing and offensive. The failure to pursue bin Laden when he was cornered in the mountains was embarrassing and offensive, not to mention dumb, an enormous missed opportunity, and did I mention dumb? al Qaeda lives to this day due to that failure. The attempt to impose conservative Christian values on those of us who are not conservative Christians was embarrassing, offensive, and probably unconstitutional.

Holder's action was - wait for it - CONTROVERSIAL. See the difference?

Posted by: bokonon13 | November 26, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Certainly the WP can find a better token conservative than this hack.

Not much of a believer in the rule of law or the Constitution, are you Gerson?

Posted by: formerrepublician | November 26, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Kare1 -- Read my post carefully. I didn't say I wanted to see this country attacked. I said I hope KSM is acquitted. It's not like he wouldn't be forever watched like a hawk if he were, and it would be a fine lesson for ignorant and naive Americans, as well as a kick in the teeth to Holder and Obowma -- both of whom, in my Constitutionally-protected opinion, hate this country. As far as there being millions of KSM wannabees out there -- that's just a simple statement of fact. If it were up to me, there would be far far fewer of them.

Posted by: RedderThanEver | November 26, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

I am happy I moved from the Washington area so that I do not have to be exposed to Gerson's columns. The few that I have read, makes me wonder why the Post is not able to find someone who can write articles that are not so simplistic.

Posted by: docallen001 | November 27, 2009 7:13 AM | Report abuse

Addendum to Obama payout list:

Robert Bauer, one of Obama's eligibility attorneys, based at Perkins and Cole in Seattle, WA, "coincidentally" was the former employer of the law clerk (with ties to Mercer Island, family home of Stanley Ann Dunham before she ran off with Obama, Sr, and where she brought little boy Obama just before they all magically relocated to Hawaii so they could register his birth there) who conveniently showed up to fill an opening in Judge David Carter's Court, just in time to write the dismissal of the Obama case at the end of October. Bauer's payout? He now gets the job as White House Counsel; Bauer's wifey, Anita Dunn, of course, has to stand aside.

Posted by: elephant4life | November 27, 2009 8:53 AM | Report abuse

In today's offerings is one from this same author lamenting the death of journalism. He does not mention the decidedly negative effects of having predetermined opiners writing editorials.

Time was, when a local newspaper took the temp of its readers and offered a sane discourse on the topic - now we have to suffer through the left side and the right side both making claims....Gerson is a good boy, but boy he is... carrying water in hopes that his side will ever get another crack at refusing to govern.

Posted by: dutchess2 | November 27, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Moron, the terrorist are already inspired to do violence trial or no trial. The point is we don't change our values for them. You reek fear. The Attorney General has shown true courage.

Posted by: fare777 | November 27, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

It's a rare day when I agree with Michael Gerson but in this case I do. The Holder decision is wrong because it will only serve to spread and renew the Bin Laden propaganda assault against the U.S..

It's naive to think that everyone in the world sees logic or justice through the eyes of the American judicial system. By giving these terrorists the rights of American citizens Holder has elevated their stature to "innocent until proven guilty" (not a tenant shared even in many democratic governments for their own accused citizens) and given them the news media stage that even Bin Laden could not have dream of.

A sad residual of this decision may very well be another sharp swing of the foreign policy opinion in the country back to the right and we all know what the last 8 years of that did to the nation and the world.

Posted by: TomMiller1 | November 27, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Holder's actions here are quite consistent with his approach to resolving issues way back when he was a Deputy AG in the Clinton regime.

Frankly, the man is elementally incompetent. He had a mass murder a block from the White House and he decided to let the DC cops solve the crime ~ without Justice Department assistance.

Now the'd been OK I suppose because the DC cops handle murders all over the place ('cause they got a lot of murders fur shur).

However, this was within what most Americans would think of as the defense perimeter of the White House itself.

Nope, Eric was wrong then, and he's wrong now. He is incapable of being otherwise.

Obama would not err in tossing him out of government ~ on the other hand he's had a lot of difficulty attracting first class talent. Most Obamaesque type replacements for Holder would probably be no better than Eric.

Posted by: muawiyah | November 28, 2009 1:01 AM | Report abuse

"He has confused American soldiers in the field, who no longer know if terrorists should be treated as enemies or defendants."

This is the most embarrassing and offensive thing I've read on this site. I'm not a military man, but I have several friends and family members who have been or currently are in the military. To think that, because of one trial, one decision, that US servicemembers would become idiots unable to function in the field, is not only ludicrous, but downright insulting. I would think that, if they were shot at and being threatened, US personnel would fight back and KNOW that who they are fighting is the enemy. Only a complete and utter moron would think otherwise.

You sir, are a disgrace. More than that, you are un-American, un-patriotic, and own every member of the United States Armed Forces a public, written apology.

That was really out of line, Gerson. As far as I'm concerned, you don't deserve "Mr." in front of your name.

Posted by: jdkolassa | November 28, 2009 2:23 AM | Report abuse

Why do you friggin neoconservative scum hate the US and our ideals so much?

We know why you don't want any kind of trial. You want everything secret. Especially the torture program which most definitely rises to the level of war crimes. You pig-eyed sacks of turds would gladly destroy every last vestige of decency in the US to defend your party leaders. You aren't patriots at all, you are the domestic enemy that we have been warned about.

Posted by: artmann11 | November 28, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

I find this whole episode completely disturbing. How is it that the AG was able to even make this decision without even consulting the President? I understand that the President can't micromanage the entire government, but you would think he would have been consulted on this one. So, either Holder is lying to cover Obama's backside, or Obama has little to no control over his AG. Neither scenario is a good thing.

Additionally, Holder had to know that a lot of people would be outraged by trying terrorists caught outside the US in civilian courts. Is he so incompetent that he cannot back up his decision with a concrete defense, and at least a few facts? The fact that Holder did not even know that what he is doing has never been done before is supremely disturbing. This is the very definition of a show trial. It isn't even based on ideology. Were it, all of the detainees would be tried in civilian courts, or all of them would be tried in military commisions. However, Holder is picking and choosing who is tried under what system. If it is so important for the world to see that our justice is open and fair, then why are we still planning to try some detainees under the military commision system rather than trying them ALL in civilian courts?

I really don't care what your position is on this issue, but you should be dismayed with the AG either way. He looked like an amateur during his testimony, and his positions undercut each other. His justification for using the military commisions undercuts his justification for using civilian courts, and vice versa. What we have as an AG is not a lawyer concerned with the proper administration of justice, but a politician using the justice system for political gain.

Posted by: mathewcarson1975 | November 28, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Remembering Carter! He consulted with his goofy daughter on the nuclear arms issue back in his administration! Now we have got this idiot discussing this most sensitive issue with very serious implications with whom? His wife and brother. Wow! America wake up! When is our Congress in this matter? Wait, it's full of loons, too.

Posted by: rustynailx | November 28, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

It will be extremely interesting to see Holder's reaction when the government's case is thrown out of court. We'll probably keep them in detention, but it won't look like we are treating them according to Constitutional principles. We could kick it back to the military tribunals, but surely their lawyers would argue that this is double jeopardy.

Despite Holder's assertions, this simply isn't an area well-defined by the Constitution. By going against precedents on how we have handled other enemy combatants he ignores the only guidance available, preferring to define new rights and new precedents.

Posted by: homesower | November 28, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Gerson is desperate. Bush's war on terror is about to be shown up as a senseless detour from justice under the law. Oh no! Anything but that. Quick, spread some fear.

Posted by: fzdybel | November 30, 2009 1:33 AM | Report abuse

Yonkers, New York
30 November 20009

True to form, conservative pundit Michael Gerson is faulting Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to try those September 11 terrorsts in a civilian court in New York City.

If he and others of like mind had their way, they probably would try these crimininals secretly in "kangaroo" courts somewhere in the caverns of Kentucky, completely out of sight of the whole world. Secretly, they would be "found" guilty. Secretly, they would all be put to death by hanging.

That's just the way Hitler and Himmler and Heydreich and Stalin and Pol Pot would do it.

That's not they way the United States of America is expected to do it. America is expected to abide strictly by the Rule of Law, by its own Constitution, by International Laws, and by the Geneva Conventions. American justice is supposed to be open, fair and transparent.

Does not Michael Gerson and his conservative coterie trust American justice?

Mariano Patalinjug

Posted by: MPatalinjug | November 30, 2009 6:37 AM | Report abuse

Artman111 --

So you're outraged that only these five are receiving civilian trials and that all of the others, including the Cole attackers, are slated for military trials? You're okay with it costing New York $100 million plus and likely taking many years before it even comes to trial? How about if the case is thrown out? After all -- they weren't Mirandized, and our current POTUS has clearly stated that torture was used on one of them. Our illustrious POTUS has also stated to the world he belief that KSM will be executed. Did he not pollute the entire jury pool with that statement, as did Holder with his inane comment that "Failure is not an option"? And who are KSM's "peers"? Will they have to seat 12 Muslims?

And if he is acquitted or the case thrown out, will we release him? If not, how will that appear to the world?

Why do you believe that military trials are inherently unfair? These are unlawful combatants, fighting without uniforms or under the banner of a particular country, who specifically targeted civilians and caused mass casualties. New Yorkers seem to think that only New York was affected by 9/11, when in fact the entire country was traumatized (and at least two other areas of the country were specifically affected).

It's one thing for you to disagree with those critizing Holder's opinion, but it's another to do so with such crass venom. It's as you and others, such as Gatsby10, despise your fellow citizens more than you do the terrorists themselves.

Posted by: RedderThanEver | November 30, 2009 7:23 AM | Report abuse

Hurrahs for you despite the myopic vision of so many Obama supplicants. When will they realize that the second messiah did not come?

Posted by: pprucci | November 30, 2009 8:05 AM | Report abuse

WSJ/Murdoch: Dumb it Down Mr. President!

On or about Dec. 16, 2001, bin Laden and bodyguards "walked unmolested out of Tora Bora and disappeared into Pakistan's unregulated tribal area," where he is still believed to be based, the report says.

CHENEY, Rumsfeld's BEST BUDDY did not DITHER!

Look what we got!

C-span's photo journalist interviewing the troops - dubbing Afghanistan the FORGOTTEN WAR!

2006- 2007- 2008

Troops- ON TAPE- stating they were in a FORGOTTEN WAR!


AND MSM is all about what DICK SAYS!

PULL those C- Span tapes and see what the TROOPS said about CHENEY!

After all - DICK ran the show!

100 Bills SITTING in SENATE waiting for GOP delays

The DO NOTHINGS! 8 years of disaster!

They scream about Sec Geithner- yet DELAY confirmations to assist the Treasury





BUSH FORGOTTEN WAR in Afghanistan!


55% increase GVT SPENDING under GOP BUSH


Bush- that COMMANDER in CHIEF!

Tom Kean, the Republican co-chair of the 9-11 Commission, has said the attacks could have been prevented.

What have they done to CLEAN UP their mess?


Push Mississippi Burning Mentality?




Posted by: sasha2008 | November 30, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Gerson, typically, either is unfamiliar with or doesn't care to examine the reality here. Nope, not when there is a chance to play to the simple with partisan invective. Way to go, Post.

Posted by: critical44 | November 30, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

First of all, there is no way they get off. Even with the supposed torture-based confessions - and remind me, who authorized that torture? - Holder says their case is strong enough. He knows the details. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
But regardless of that, this is America. How can we claim the moral high ground when we won't bring these criminals to trial?
Gerson's boss was so concerned about spreading democracy. One of the crucial tenets of democracy is the rule of law. How does this fly with that?

Posted by: ravensfan20008 | November 30, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

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