EDITORIAL: Terrorism on trial

The Boston mangler gets his due as a federal case

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The Constitution stands on trial in Boston. After a manhunt with a warrantless search of thousands of homes — sometimes at gunpoint — the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing was finally captured. The birthplace of the American independence movement shouldn’t be the place where liberty dies.

Fortunately, the Obama administration got it mostly right when it decided Dzhokhar Tsarnaev ought to be tried in a federal court for the federal crime of “using a weapon of mass destruction.” Others, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, wanted the prime suspect interrogated as an enemy combatant, where a defendant is clothed in minimal rights. “It is impossible for us to gather the evidence in just a few days to determine whether or not this individual should be held for questioning under the law of war,” says Mr. Graham.

The urge to use tribunals to punish terrorists is understandable. So is the urge to take a suspect such as the Boston mangler by the scruff of the neck and throw the book at him. But we don’t do it that way. When a terrorist is caught red-handed, the logical thing to do is interrogate him to the maximum extent possible to learn everything we can about his methods, sources, associates and anything else he may know about his sponsoring organization, if there is one, and plots that may be unfolding. Mr. Tsarnaev’s lawyers will likely throw up roadblock after roadblock. That’s what defense lawyers are paid to do.

That can be frustrating, but the alternative is a society where the government will decide which citizens have the right to a trial by jury and due process and which citizens do not. Such extraordinary legal measures are hardly needed here. It’s not as if a jury of Bostonians, after considering the evidence, would go easy on someone found responsible for such a despicable deed.

It would be even more preferable, and Constitution-friendly, for the case to be handled as a murder trial in a Massachusetts courtroom, rather than in a federal court. Were the cold-blooded killer of three, including an 8-year-old boy, sentenced to serve time in a state penitentiary, he might very well pine for the comparative safety of a cellblock in Guantanamo Bay.

Previously, the Obama administration had sent September 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to a military tribunal. It did so reluctantly because the administration first wanted to try him in a civilian court; he is not a U.S. citizen. It’s a perverse twist that Islamic terrorists who obtain U.S. citizenship to blend in with the population unnoticed to deliberately kill and maim the innocent on U.S. soil have greater legal protections than those who operate overseas.

It’s something that will become more common, thanks to the excesses of immigration and naturalization policies that encourage the misuse of student visas from countries that hate America. The Congressional Research Service estimates that from Sept. 11, 2001, through the end of 2012, there were 63 violent jihadist plots hatched inside the United States, most within the past four years.

Jihadist plotters no doubt relish what they see as a fertile recruiting ground here in the United States. They’re emboldened by an administration that remains paralyzed by political correctness, even calling terrorism “workplace violence,” and reluctant to acknowledge the role of radical Islam in terrorism plots.

The enemies of America hate freedom most of all, and surrendering our rights gives them the victory they seek. Patience has its rewards, and awarding the guilty due process doesn’t mean justice can’t be done. Due process sends Islamic jihadists a message that we refuse to become like them.

The Washington Times

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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