The Chilling Subtext Of The Al-Nashiri Decision.

Earlier this morning, I posted about the administration's decision to try the alleged 9/11 conspirators in civilian court. Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is a suspect in the bombing the U.S.S. Cole, will face trial by military commission. Glenn Greenwald argues that this exposes "a multi-tiered justice system, where only certain individuals are entitled to real trials." Many civil liberties advocates have protested the use of military commissions on the grounds that the basis for their use appears to be the quality of the government's case against the suspect, not the nature of the crime--it's hard to see how the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole was a war crime rather than a criminal act of terrorism--particularly given that the U.S. is trying the alleged 9/11 conspirators in civilian court.

But as I explained earlier, the new military commissions are much closer to civilian trials than the Bush version--but they still give the government the ability to more easily suppress information it wants to keep secret. That may explain why the administration doesn't want to try al-Nashiri in civilian court. Al-Nashiri, if you remember, aside from being waterboarded, had a gun held close to his head by an interrogator, and was led to believe that he would be rendered to a country where his female relatives would be raped in front of him. All of this is illegal under American law.

Unlike KSM, who has confessed--al-Nashiri maintains his innocence and has said confessions he gave previously were the result of torture, which means his treatment will likely be a big part of his trial. This may explain the choice of venue. 

UPDATE: In case it isn't clear, I'm trying to explain the likely reason for al-Nashiri's trial by military commission, which I think is a bad idea. I'm not endorsing it. Not even close.

-- A. Serwer

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