What should we do with terrorists?

Security guru Bruce Schneier has the right idea:

We should treat terrorists like common criminals and give them all the benefits of true and open justice — not merely because it demonstrates our indomitability, but because it makes us all safer. Once a society starts circumventing its own laws, the risks to its future stability are much greater than terrorism.

Point I tried to make — repeatedly — in If We Can Keep It.

Hat tip to James Fallows’s blog for the reference (and his commentary is also well worth the read).

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Filed in Uncategorized | 3 responses so far

3 Responses to “What should we do with terrorists?”

  1. Duncan C Kinderon 14 Nov 2009 at 10:02 am 1

    If, in fact, where or how the “terrorists” ( note the term is undefined ) should be tried were actually about justice or public safety, then the nature of the debate would be a low key and technical one.

    While it could be possible that such a trial could evolve into a spectacle, such as the Chicago Seven or OJ, or into a travesty, such as Sacco and Venzetti, neither has yet occurred.

    The intensity of this debate reinforces the impression that the so-called “War on Terror” is only secondarily a foreign policy or defense issue. Rather, it is primarily – if not essentially – a sublimated domestic struggle within the the United States attempting to resolve various issues relating to the 1960’s, including Vietnam, civil rights, and various well known social issues. ( This is why seeking a definition for “victory” in Afghanistan has been so misguided. “Victory” would have everything to do with the internal US resolution of these outstanding 1960’s issues and little or nothing to do with affairs over there. )

    One aspect of the current flap is that the 1960’s marked a massive expansion of lawyers, litigation, judicial activism, and the like – so partisans on various sides of this divide can vent their frustrations. Safety – and justice – are secondary.

    Fixated with this 1960’s debate, the United States seems unable or unwilling to move onto greener pastures; and the rest of the world is growing very tired of this. The most significant change within the United States since then has been the rise of the Hispanics, who played only a minor role in the 1960’s mythos. Hopefully, they will provide us with sufficient resources to transcend these worn out issues before they otherwise explode into outright domestic strife.

  2. EmeryNelsonon 16 Nov 2009 at 1:24 pm 2

    I’m curious as to what happens next with Sheik Mohammed? He’ll likely be released by the end of the week if he’s tried in civil courts because of civil fights violations, but what will that mean? Is his eventual release going to hurt us? I’m glad they’re doing it but it seems like a huge looser for us seeing as how we’ve already violated the law many times.

  3. Rob Pon 18 Nov 2009 at 3:33 am 3

    I am really curious as to what kind of civilian trial we could possibly impose on a person we “obtained” from Pakistan without anything relating to the idea of “due process” to include things like deportation hearings, search warrants, arrest warrant (unless we are prosecuting him based on a 1996 arrest warrant) Miranda, and interrogated him (harshly I believe but don’t know as a proven fact) without the benefit of a lawyer or even an idea that he had rights to refuse to speak or admit to guilt? I know some of the news stories say he was arrested, but news outlets make common mistakes like confusing detained with arrested, a huge legal distinction.

    Basically what we have is a guy we detained, unless we arrested him under suspicion of plotting to blow up 12 planes going from the Philippines to the US in 1996 (HaHa), who we violated every standard civilian legal precedent we possibly could to get him and keep him in our custody, and now we’re going to give him a “fair trial” with the expectation of winning. Has this been done in the last 30 years successfully? I’m still looking and I can’t find it.

    BTW, I don’t think we “shredded the Constitution” to get this guy, just civilian legal precedent which has never applied to overseas security operations, to include US sponsered assassination. In short we could’ve dropped a bomb on the house we found him in and we wouldn’t have been “shredding the Constitution”. Giving him any kind of trial, military or civilian, is just the US going out of its way to do our best to give this man a chance to defend himself and unless we are going to try him for the PI plot in 1996, I don’t see how we could win in a civilian court and he might still get off with “time served” even if we did win.

    The rest of the Schneier article is too vague to comment on.

    S/F: Rob