Saying that critics are “understating the criminal justice system’s capacities,” two top Bush Justice officials came out in support of Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other Guantanamo detainees in federal court. Writing in the Washington Post, Jim Comey, former deputy attorney general and U.S. attorney in Manhattan, and Jack Goldsmith, a former assistant attorney general who now teaches at Harvard Law School, wrote that the move is “unlikely to make New York a bigger target” and that civilian courts are a proven venue for terror trials:
[T]here is no question about the legitimacy of U.S. federal courts to incapacitate terrorists. Many of Holder’s critics appear to have forgotten that the Bush administration used civilian courts to put away dozens of terrorists, including “shoe bomber” Richard Reid; al-Qaeda agent Jose Padilla; “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh; the Lackawanna Six; and Zacarias Moussaoui, who was prosecuted for the same conspiracy for which Mohammed is likely to be charged. Many of these terrorists are locked in a supermax prison in Colorado, never to be seen again.
In terrorist trials over the past 15 years, federal prosecutors and judges have gained extensive experience protecting intelligence sources and methods, limiting a defendant’s ability to raise irrelevant issues and tightly controlling the courtroom.
Comey and Goldsmith are hardly the first conservatives to support Holder’s faith in the U.S. justice system. In a joint statement prepared by the Constitution Project, David Keene, founder of American Conservative Union, Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, and former representative and presidential candidate Bob Barr wrote Sunday, “We are confident that the government can preserve national security without resorting to sweeping and radical departures from an American constitutional tradition that has served us effectively for over two centuries. … The scare-mongering about these issues should stop.”