- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2002

Yes. No. Certainly not. Thus, it is to be hoped, will be U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema's response to a motion that television cameras be permitted in the courtroom for the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, charged with conspiracy to commit international terrorism as part of the September 11 slaughter. The defendantthe only person charged by the United States in the terror attacks also faces three other capital counts and two counts that would imprison him for life.

TV cameras are banned from federal courtrooms, the last refuge from the ubiquitous lens in the judicial system, but it should not stay that way. So, yes, the cameras should be allowed with provisos. That is emphatically so in a case as volatile as this one, with a potential to endanger the lives of individual jurors and their families. "No" should be the judge's answer to identifying individual jurors, who must remain anonymous and sequestered. Such precautions are extraordinary, because of the need to safeguard human life as well as national security.

Beyond the ratings value, which is obvious if implicit, the arguments for televising the trial were articulated by Henry Schleiff, honcho of Court TV, which filed the motion. "It's the United States vs. Moussaoui. We as citizens are … also victims, and as victims we are entitled to hear and seeing the proceedings unfold." Besides, the motion contends, banning cameras from federal courtrooms is unconstitutional.

The federal response is that television would pose "significant risks to the administration of justice." Notably, this could involve the prosecution's reluctance to submit evidence that might disclose and imperil U.S. intelligence sources, for one small matter. To the contrary, while it is inevitable that classified intelligence information be given in evidence, whenever such information is to be discussed, the judge must rule that it is "certainly not" for public consumption. All cameras and audio equipment will have to be literally removed from the courtroom.

Also, remember this defendant was prepared to sacrifice his life as part of the plot that destroyed the World Trade Center and heavily damaged the Pentagon, with a loss of over 3,000 innocent lives. A French citizen of Moroccan descent, Mr. Moussaoui was arrested in August after a Minnesota flight school informed the FBI of what it considered suspicious behavior. The grand jury indictment charged, among other things, that Mr. Moussaoui was trained by al Qaeda and was financed by an alleged terrorist, who also provided money to some of the September 11 airline hijackers.

Perhaps in another court all of this legalistic argle-bargle could delay the trial well past its scheduled October start, which would not be useful. Indeed, some might argue that the O.J. trial is Exhibit A against televising an uncommonly sensitive criminal trial. However, there are no Lance Itos on the so-called Rocket Docket bench. Things will go quickly. Moreover, in the scale of things, the Simpson spectacle was minor league compared to that of a defendant in the September 11 horror. Keeping the cameras turned on the Moussaoui proceedings is in the interest of the American people.

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