Mr. Holder told you yesterday that he approached this case with an open mind, that his only goal was to look at the facts and the law and choose the venue where “swift and certain justice” could most effectively be achieved. What could be more swift and more certain than the defendants’ declaration, one month before Mr. Obama took office, that they wished to plead guilty to the charges and be executed? The families of the victims, some of whom were sitting in that courtroom when he made his proffer, were elated. At long last, we could begin the end of our terrible, agonizing journey.
President Obama prevented this from going forward. It was a campaign promise that the president made, and the attorney general--then a private citizen campaigning for his candidate-- told supporters Mr. Obama would fulfill as one of his first presidential acts. Indeed, on his second day in office, the newly- elected president signed sweeping executive orders which did away with all the work that Congress had accomplished in promulgating a legal framework for military commissions. And it nullified three years of case preparation by the Office of Military commissions when they were just months away from the conclusion of the case.
These campaign promises were made, and these executive orders were issued, without an examination of the evidence in these cases or in consultation with the lawyers most familiar it, namely, the attorneys drawn from both the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice who had toiled away for three years in preparation for trial. Neither candidate Obama, or President-elect Obama or newly-minted President Obama had seen one shred of evidence on these cases when he terminated them with the stroke of a pen. This was a raw exercise of executive authority without regard for the history we had all, as a nation, lived through, and without consultation with or regard for the people whose beloved family members had been so brutally taken from them on that catastrophic day.
The attorney general finished his press conference yesterday, leaving one final insult to the commissions and the dedicated prosecutors and staff at the Office of Military Commissions. He lamented the fact that federal courts don’t get the proper respect they are due, and made a final pitch for them, as if they, and not commissions, have been the object of years of unrelenting assault, by him, by his boss in the Oval office, and by the legions of lawyers, law professors, human rights activists, and anti- military propagandists whose appeal to moral vanity has found fertile ground in this Justice Department.
Mr. Holder’s words are a clear signal to these parties, that they have a friend in the White House and at the Justice Department, and their legal assaults on military commissions should continue apace after after the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is safely behind us.
For thousands of Americans the wounds of 9/11 will never heal. The policies of this administration cause us all to grieve anew.