Those two towers that fell all those years ago — you know the ones — prompted a war, elicited forced patriotism, and have come to be a symbol of an event known as one of the most heinous crimes on American soil. We’ve searched for the potential ‘evil doers’ (a phrase that entered the American lexicon with bloodthirsty repetition) and we now have an opportunity to bring one of them to justice.
The Obama administration stated on Friday, Nov. 11 that it would prosecute Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks, in a Manhattan federal courtroom, igniting a sharp political debate that has left members of both parties with something to say. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called the announcement “a very comprehensively examined decision,” while New York Republican Rep. Peter T. King has stated that the potential for another attack on American soil has been increased.
On a larger scale, the decision to try Mohammed and four accused conspirators on American soil means the furthering of Obama’s vow to close Guantanamo Bay — a promise that, over a year later, has proven to be easier said than done, causing widespread questioning of Obama’s realistic actions. On a more intimate scale, it allows a sense of potential closure for a city that is still hyper-aware from the attacks over nine years ago.
The decision, announced by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., could mean that one of the highest-profile and highest-security terrorism trials in United States history would be set just blocks from Ground Zero, where over 3,000 civilians were killed.
Whether civilian courts are able to provide a bias-free assessment of guilt is, however, still questionable. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia has questioned the logic of the decision, saying that the wound is still too fresh to assume that New Yorkers can separate the emotions from the proceedings.
What the decision really marks is a cementing of Obama’s desire to shift the global image of the U.S. The decision to prosecute under American court proceedings allows for the protections of the American justice system to be enacted. This is a far cry from the Bush administration’s policy, which denied suspected Al-Queda members due process of law and habeas corpus.
This decision allows an attempt to return to America’s preservation of civil liberties and human rights. And with defense attorneys for the hijackers citing illegal CIA torture tactics during confinement, an attempt to grant the liberties of American law is, in a definite way, a step forward. Our federal courts have in the past proven to be a successful way of prosecuting terrorism, as evidenced by the prosecution of Omar Abdel Rahman, who in 1995 was convicted of plotting an attack on the United Nations headquarters, among other New York structures. He is now serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison, the sanctioned punishment for seditious conspiracy.
What this decision brings forth is progress. Progress toward more civil military tactics, progress toward the closing of Guantanamo Bay, progress toward adhering to U.S. policies and support of civil liberties, and, most importantly, progress toward prosecuting those responsible for one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in U.S. history. Doing so with a willingness to uphold our country’s belief and our trust in our citizens only furthers the potential victory.