Monday, July 28, 2008

John C. Coughenour: Try Terrorists in Ordinary American Courts

I agree with this sentiment:
I have spent 27 years on the federal bench. In particular, my experience with the trial of Ahmed Ressam, the "millennium bomber," leads me to worry about Attorney General Michael Mukasey's comments last week, urging Congress to pass legislation outlining judicial procedures for reviewing Guantanamo detainees' habeas petitions. As constituted, U.S. courts are not only an adequate venue for trying terrorism suspects but are also a tremendous asset in combating terrorism. Congress risks a grave error in creating a parallel system of terrorism courts unmoored from the constitutional values that have served our country so well for so long.

I have great sympathy for those charged with protecting our national security. That is an awesome responsibility. But this is not a choice between the existential threat of terrorism and the abstractions of a 200-year-old document. The choice is better framed as: Do we want our courts to be viewed as another tool in the "war on terrorism," or do we want them to stand as a bulwark against the corrupt ideology upon which terrorism feeds?