U.S. News and World Report
March 15, 2013
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith’s case clearly belongs in a civilian U.S. court. It’s unfortunate that some lawmakers have used this case to whip up hysteria and champion the failed experiment that is the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.
I watched Abu Gaith’s arraignment in the federal courthouse in Manhattan on Friday. It was a model of fairness and efficiency. In just 17 minutes, Judge Lewis Kaplan, a no-nonsense federal judge with decades of experience handling complex criminal conspiracy cases, read the charges against Abu Ghaith, explained his rights, assigned him lawyers, recorded his “not guilty” plea, and explained how the court would handle classified material. Abu Ghaith has reportedly already shared significant information with federal officers.
By contrast, the pretrial hearings of the five alleged masterminds of the 9/11 attacks taking place in Guantanamo Bay have been a fiasco. The arraignment alone took 13 hours and was like watching a circus. The defendants alternately ignored the bewildered military judge, yelled at him, prayed on the floor, fashioned paper airplanes, and threatened to commit suicide. It was hardly a proceeding that inspired confidence in the United States’ ability to bring to justice the five alleged masterminds of the worst terrorist attack ever carried out on U.S. soil. I can only imagine how the victims’ families felt watching this spectacle.