John Yoo has an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal pointing out one of the major drawbacks of holding a civilian trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. As I've argued before, my primary objection is that KSM is an alien terrorist who should be subject to summary execution, not given undeserved rights as if he were a U.S. citizen. By doing so we bow to a form of blind legalism that introduces laws and rules to a situation in which they were never meant to apply. In addition, we cheapen and degrade the rights of U.S. citizens by extending them to individuals like KSM. But Yoo brings up another important issue.
Yoo makes the case that this trial will provide intelligence on our operations to Al Qaeda, as well as harming our ongoing and future intelligence efforts to counter the terrorist network.
Prosecutors will be forced to reveal U.S. intelligence on KSM, the methods and sources for acquiring its information, and his relationships to fellow al Qaeda operatives. The information will enable al Qaeda to drop plans and personnel whose cover is blown. It will enable it to detect our means of intelligence-gathering, and to push forward into areas we know nothing about.It will do all of those things. And for that cost we get nothing.
Even more harmful to our national security will be the effect a civilian trial of KSM will have on the future conduct of intelligence officers and military personnel. Will they have to read al Qaeda terrorists their Miranda rights? Will they have to secure the "crime scene" under battlefield conditions? Will they have to take statements from nearby "witnesses"? Will they have to gather evidence and secure its chain of custody for transport all the way back to New York?The whole article is worth reading. While you are reading it, keep in mind that we are going to suffer these negative consequences in order to please terrorist rights supporters -- people who think self-confessed and unquestioned terrorist leaders like KSM deserve the same rights as an innocent American citizen accused of a crime. Never mind the consequences to national security, or the damage to the very concept of constitutional rights, their desire to feel good about giving terrorist enemies a fair trial in civilian court is just more important.