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USA v. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

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This case is such a bad idea that I really don’t know where to start. Let’s start with torture.

Professor Alan Dershowitz and others seek to justify torture (euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation techniques”) due to the “ticking time bomb” scenario. In the context of that scenario, they may well be right, though I think there are good arguments on both sides.

The problem is that Khalid Sheikh (“Sheikh isn’t a middle name in Arabic, by the way, it’s a title. When I read it I almost want to laugh) Mohammed was tortured in excess of 150 times, if the news reports are correct.

Torture has been banned in the federal criminal justice system since at least the 1940’s, and in the various state systems since the 1960’s due to cases like Miranda, Gideon and others. If a federal judge doesn’t suppress Khalid Mohammed’s statements, then Miranda—any many other cases—are meaningless. With so many calling for Khalid’s head on a platter, including both the Secretary of State and the President, it will take a brave federal judge indeed to make such a decision.

The government’s effort in avoiding the torture issue is ridiculous. The government states that after torturing Khalid Mohammed over 150 times it sent in a group of interrogators who had not participated in the torture. The idea is that they will not be tainted by exposure to the information obtained through torture.   This is no different from an elaborate good cop/bad cop scenario in which the defendant plays nice with the good cop to prevent the return of the bad cop, who, after all, has only tortured him 150 times.

So, if the statements are suppressed, what other evidence is there? Perhaps there is enough to convict, but perhaps not. More than likely—if the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine still has any validity—not. Losing a criminal prosecution against Khalid Mohammed is unthinkable; yet if the system is fair, this is the likely result. What’s worse is that such a trial will validate torture. Think of the Youtube video of th Oklahoma State Trooper strangling the African-American EMT firefighter if you think that such validation is meaningless and won’t trickle down.

The U.S. is setting itself up for a show trial of no precedential value. Which is little better than shooting him “while trying to escape.” In a way, we’d be better off than with this ill-considered prosecution. 

Written by mokane

November 16, 2009 at 7:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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