All Half-Empty, All the TimeLast week Attorney General Holder gave a speech at Northwestern. His speech had two main points. You've probably heard about one of them: a defense of the use of lethal force against specific terrorists (including US citizens) under particular circumstances. (For the record, I think the killing of al-Awlaki was reasonable and justified; but the legal standard they use in cases like his should be transparent, not kept secret; and there should be judicial oversight involved, not just the judgment of the executive branch.)
Odds are pretty good that you didn't hear about the other big point in Holder's speech. You didn't read about it here or here or here or here, and you damn sure didn't read about it here or here or here or here or here. It wasn't just the Greenwaldian Firebaggers who ignored it; most of the more reasonable liberals didn't bother to mention it either.
So let's take a moment here and see what was the other big thing AG Holder had to say:
But surveillance is only the first of many complex issues we must navigate. Once a suspected terrorist is captured, a decision must be made as to how to proceed with that individual in order to identify the disposition that best serves the interests of the American people and the security of this nation....In other words, a good deal of AG Holder's speech was defending the use of civilian courts to try terrorism suspects. "Justifying continuation & expansion of Bush admin "war on terror" policies"? Erm...not so much.
Our criminal justice system is renowned not only for its fair process; it is respected for its results. We are not the first Administration to rely on federal courts to prosecute terrorists, nor will we be the last. Although far too many choose to ignore this fact, the previous Administration consistently relied on criminal prosecutions in federal court to bring terrorists to justice. John Walker Lindh, attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid, and 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui were among the hundreds of defendants convicted of terrorism-related offenses – without political controversy – during the last administration.
Over the past three years, we’ve built a remarkable record of success in terror prosecutions. For example, in October, we secured a conviction against Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab for his role in the attempted bombing of an airplane traveling from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. He was sentenced last month to life in prison without the possibility of parole. While in custody, he provided significant intelligence during debriefing sessions with the FBI....
In addition to Abdulmutallab, Faizal Shahzad, the attempted Times Square bomber, Ahmed Ghailani, a conspirator in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, and three individuals who plotted an attack against John F. Kennedy Airport in 2007, have also recently begun serving life sentences....
I could go on. Which is why the calls that I’ve heard to ban the use of civilian courts in prosecutions of terrorism-related activity are so baffling, and ultimately are so dangerous. These calls ignore reality. And if heeded, they would significantly weaken – in fact, they would cripple – our ability to incapacitate and punish those who attempt to do us harm.
Simply put, since 9/11, hundreds of individuals have been convicted of terrorism or terrorism-related offenses in Article III courts and are now serving long sentences in federal prison. Not one has ever escaped custody. No judicial district has suffered any kind of retaliatory attack. These are facts, not opinions. There are not two sides to this story. Those who claim that our federal courts are incapable of handling terrorism cases are not registering a dissenting opinion -- they are simply wrong.
Given a political climate in which Congress voted overwhelmingly to mandate indefinite detention and military tribunals, isn't it kind of noteworthy that the Attorney General is pushing back hard? Worth at least a passing mention in any discussion of the speech? And yet as far as the liberal blogosphere is concerned, that part of the speech might as well never have happened.
Is it any wonder there's a huge disconnect between the President's accomplishments and public perception of them when his supporters can't be bothered to notice when he gets it right? Come on, people: there's an election coming up. At least act as if you care about the outcome.