The Obama administration made two announcements today: The first was that the president would seek reelection in 2012; the second was that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would be tried by a military commission (instead of in New York City in a federal court). KSM is considered (by himself, experts, and authorities) the mastermind behind 9/11.
The timing of the KSM announcement suggests one of two things. Either that the administration thought it could drown out this announcement with talk of the 2012 campaign. Or, more likely, the president wanted to signal that he has become more moderate, since the previous decision to try KSM in New York City was roundly criticized and extremely unpopular.
Regardless, though, the announcement of the decision has been bizarre. Instead of saying mea culpa, and trying to move on, Attorney General Eric Holder decided to attack Congress at a press conference earlier today.
In making this announcement, the Attorney General blamed Congress for forcing him into this decision by reflecting the will of the people and preventing the transfer of al Qaeda terrorists from Guantanamo to the United States homeland to receive more Constitutional rights than they currently have.
The Attorney General’s position on consulting with Congress on this matter became clear when he said he knows these issues better than Congress and essentially said it is inappropriate for Congress to be involved in this matter. He was further critical of Congress’s actions hindering the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to Article III courts to enjoy all the Constitutional protections of American citizens. He further stated that the Administration will seek to repeal the restrictions imposed by Congress when Congress was under the control of overwhelming Democratic majorities in both Houses. So much for the days of the Obama-Biden campaign promise to “convene a bipartisan Consultative Group of leading members of Congress to foster better executive-legislative relations and bipartisan unity on foreign policy.”
In light of the current state of the law, the primary explanation for the decision announced today appeared to be that the prosecutions of the 9/11 co-conspirators cannot be delayed any longer. If only that position had been taken in January 2009, when the defendants’ offer to plead guilty in a military commission was standing. Instead of moving forward on that offer, however, the Obama Administration decided to bring these foreign terrorists to the United States to be tried in a federal criminal court just a few blocks from Ground Zero.
It does seem to be an odd way to kick off the 2012 campaign.