Were the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon acts of terrorism? Certainly, but they were criminal acts. Mr. Mohammed and his co-defendants are not enemy combatants. The United States was not at war with al-Qaeda at the time of the attacks.
This is an opportunity for the United States to show the world how an adversarial legal system should operate. Put the case before a federal grand jury. Allow that body to deliberate and decide whether to issue an indictment. Should indictments be issued, allow Mr. Mohammed and the other defendants the same rights afforded to any other criminal defendant: trial by jury, the right of confrontation, the right to put on evidence in their behalf and the right to remain silent. More importantly, show the world that every man is presumed innocent unless and until the state can prove otherwise beyond all reasonable doubt.
Of course someone might want to remind the Vice President and the White House press secretary of that presumption. Joe Biden has already announced to the world that Mr. Mohammed is guilty and Robert Gibbs said that Mr. Mohammed "is going to meet justice and he's going to meet his maker."
Will passions be inflamed? Yes, but that is the nature of a democracy. Will "secrets" be revealed? Quite possibly, but the American people have the right to know what our government is doing in our name.
In the end, with the spotlight shining on the proceedings, Mr. Mohammed will receive a fair trial and we will strengthen our democracy and our legal system through our actions, not just our words.
"Since when are Americans afraid of trials" Houston Chronicle (Feb. 2, 2010)
"A trial for years" Simple Justice (Feb. 1, 2010)
"Accused 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed faces New York trial" CNN.com (Nov. 13, 2009)