Greenwald on Ghailani Trial: Don't Blame the Justice System

Glenn Greenwaldsummed up the response to the Ghailani trial pretty succinctly midway through his piece today: “Nobody is going to let the facts get in the way of a nice right-wing, fear-mongering, liberty-attacking orgy.” In his defense against right-wing blowhards like Liz Cheney, he very carefully levels that the trial–and the verdict that found him guilty of conspiracy but acquitted him of murder–was fair. He even points out that, despite Ghailani's imprisonment at a CIA black site, that this time the judicial system worked–and that the witness testimony would have been banned in front of a military commission, as well:

Then there is the false premise -- found at the center of every attack on the Obama DOJ's conduct here -- that the key witness would not have been excluded had Ghailani had been put before a military commission at Guantanamo.  That is simply untrue.  The current rules governing those military tribunals bar the use of torture-obtained evidence to roughly the same extent as real courts do.  

So while the conservative chorus crows mindlessly about the “lack of justice” in the trial, Greenwald proves the opposite––that the system worked exactly as it was set up to work. An eloquent explication of our founding fathers rounds out the piece:

It's supposed to be extremely difficult for the Government to win the right to put someone in a cage for their entire lives, or to kill them.  Having lived under a tyranny in which there were very few barriers impeding the leader's desire to imprison or otherwise punish someone -- and having waged a war to escape that oppression -- the Founders designed it this way on purpose.  And they did so with the full knowledge that clearly guilty and even extremely evil people would sometimes receive something other than the punishment they deserve.  Here's how Thomas Jefferson weighed those considerations, as expressed in a 1791 letter:  "I would rather be exposed to the inconveniencies attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it."

That courageous declaration -- and not the desperate, eager desire to sacrifice safeguards in single-minded, fearful pursuit of Security -- was the central calculus that drove the American Founding, shaped the U.S. Constitution, and formed the political identity which Americans claimed to embrace for the next two centuries.  As usual, the people who are now screaming the loudest over the need to defend American Freedom are the ones who believe least in the values that were intended to define it and the principles that were intended to safeguard it.

 Read his full piece, along with typically smart parsing of the law, over at Salon.

AlterNet / By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Posted at November 18, 2010, 6:53am

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