The Los Angeles Times
April 10, 2011

President Obama last week decided to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other accused Sept. 11 conspirators before a military commission in the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, rather than in a civilian court in the United States. It’s the latest example of Obama, who was acidly critical of George W. Bush’s policies in the war on terror, embracing those policies or acquiescing in their continuation. Explanations abound: an assertive Congress, a lack of public support, a seductive bureaucracy or a change in Obama’s thinking from candidate to president. Each example tells a different story, but the end result is disappointing. And the responsibility ultimately lies with the president.

The fiasco of the Mohammed trial is an example of good intentions followed by inept execution. When Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. announced in 2009 that the self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind and his confederates would be tried in a civilian court, we said that the decision “makes an eloquent statement about the Obama administration’s determination to avenge the victims of terrorism within the rule of law.” Holder said Mohammed and the other defendants would be tried in New York “to answer for their alleged crimes in a courthouse just blocks from where the twin towers once stood.” But that was precisely the problem for many New Yorkers, who regarded a trial near ground zero as a sacrilege or who feared it would be a magnet for terrorists.

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