Should KSM and other alleged 9/11 plotters be tried in international court?
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men will finally stand trial for allegedly plotting the 9/11 terror attacks later this month. After years of debates, it was decided under popular and political pressure that the men, originally set by the Obama administration to be tried in New York City, would instead face a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay.
“Congressional opposition has created obstacles that’s been very hard to overcome,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said last year. The Justice Department explained the switch by saying, “A timely prosecution in federal court does not appear feasible, [so] the Attorney General intends to refer this matter to the Department of Defense to proceed in military commissions.”
BBC News reports proceedings will begin within the next 30 days, and that the men face all kinds of charges, including hijacking, conspiracy, murder, destruction of property, the weakest of them all, and of course terrorism. KSM has already admitted — nay, bragged — about planning that horrific day.
As military officials prepare for what will be a defining case, it’s worth again asking if this is the appropriate setting for such proceedings. A civilian court, many agreed, would be too insecure for the high profile case, and the legal parameters perhaps not equipped for the task. But is a military venue run by a specific government’s armed servieces the best option? Terrorist groups, loosely defined and at its most basic meaning, are a non-state agency or group attacking a supposed enemy through nontraditional, often sensationalistic and unpredictable means. Terrorism’s extra-state existence is just as much a part of its identity as its unexpectedness, and 9/11, though targeting the United States specifically, impacted dozens of international lands: more than 90 countries lost citizens that day. It was an attack on the Western world as a whole.
Plus, KSM is also accused of plotting attacks in foreign counties, like a bombing in Bali, and helping organize the killing of American journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan. KSM and the other men, Waleed bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, aren’t simply enemies of our state, but of all states. In that light, wouldn’t the Hague or another international court be a more appropriate venue for the use of judicial force against unconventional enemies?