Attorney General Eric Holder reversed policy Monday, announcing that alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-conspirators will be tried in a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay rather than in a New York federal court.
In announcing the decision, Holder clarified that he is returning the case to the Defense Department “reluctantly.” He also blamed Congress, which erected barriers to bringing detainees to the United States for prosecution, declaring that they have encroached upon a “unique executive branch function” to decide how to handle cases against terror suspects. “Do I know better than them? Yes,” Holder said, referring to lawmakers who voted for the restrictions on Guantanamo transfers to U.S. soil.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, 2003
Trying KSM and four others in military tribunals is just another one of President Bush’s policies that the Obama administration has come to embrace. Last month, President Obama signed an executive order to create a formal system of indefinite detention for Gitmo detainees who continue to pose a significant threat to national security. At that time, the administration also announced that it would reinstate military tribunals for detainees, suspended by Obama when he took office, but had not clarified where KSM & Co. would be tried.
With such high profile cases set to take place at Gitmo, it’s become clear that President Obama will not be closing down the detention facility any time soon, if at all – a policy blow to the Obama administration. And that is the right decision, albeit two years later. As they say, it’s better late than never.