There's an article in the New York Times that provides a prime example of blind legalism in action. It's difficult to read it without laughing incredulously that we are actually wasting all this time and effort putting a known terrorist on trial in the civilian court system -- let alone agonizing over various details.
Here's the situation. Back in 2004 we captured Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, who was implicated in the 1998 bombing of two U.S. African embassies. It's blatantly obvious that he's guilty. Ghailani was first held in a "secret" CIA prison, and then moved to Guantanamo. His interrogation revealed the name of the person who sold him explosives, Hussein Abebe, who was then tracked down. Abebe admits selling Ghailani the explosives thinking that they'd be used for legitimate mining purposes. So what's the problem?
Naturally, like every terrorist, Ghailani claims he was tortured. Instead of just ignoring his claim, for which there is zero evidence, the judge is worried about how the U.S. government found out about Abele, and why he is cooperating. There's a question of whether or not he will be permitted to testify.
This situation demonstrates yet again the problems with pretending that hostile aliens have U.S. constitutional rights, or that the civilian legal system applies to covert intelligence operations and secret war efforts against terrorist enemies. Once it was confirmed that Ghailani was part of the embassy bombings, he should have received a quick summary execution -- preferably in secret. There's no reason to go through this farce and waste all sorts of time and money, just so the administration can conduct a show trial. It serves no good purpose, is unnecessary and risks further damage to our ongoing intelligence operations and war efforts. Since it appears that Ghailani is clearly guilty, I have little doubt that the administration will be able to secure some sort of conviction. But just by exposing this sort of case in civilian court, there is always the danger of having a judge make a ruling that will impose more restrictions on our covert actions.