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Fairness at Guantanamo
The Bush administration is prosecuting six Guantanamo detainees for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and seeking the death penalty, said the Los Angeles Times, but the trial will "dishonor U.S. justice" if confessions obtained under waterboarding
W
hat happened
The Bush administration said Monday that it would prosecute six Guantanamo detainees with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and seek the death penalty. The case is likely to stir debate over harsh interrogation tactics used on some of the suspects, although prosecutors said military questioners gathered much of the information that will be used against the men using time-tested rapport-building techniques. (The Washington Post, free registration)

What the commentators said
It would be reassuring “if the trial of suspected 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and five other alleged terrorist plotters could finally provide accountability and justice,” said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial (free registration). But trying these men under “the jury-rigged system of justice for detainees at Guantanamo Bay” will probably just make the world more angry at the U.S. than it already is. And if the judges admit evidence obtained using coercive tactics such as waterboarding, it “will dishonor U.S. justice and our cause.”

Defense lawyers will no doubt argue that confessions obtained under duress shouldn’t be admitted, said the New York Daily News in an editorial. But “they belong on the record to be evaluated along with every other piece of evidence.” In the end, a fair trial will only confirm what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has already admitted—that he was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks that killed “2,974 innocents at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.” Death is too good for him.

That’s why this trial absolutely must be “scrupulously fair,” said The Miami Herald in an editorial (free registration). “The last thing this country needs is to help terrorists become sympathetic martyrs.” If these men are found guilty in a fair trial, they deserve the death penalty as much—or more—than any murderer ever has. But “the real question is whether these men can receive a fair public trial that satisfies U.S. legal standards and global scrutiny,” and so far that looks “unlikely.”

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