Use U.S. courts in terrorism cases
U.S. citizen Jose Padilla has been convicted of terrorism conspiracy by a federal jury.
JOSE Padilla's conviction by a federal jury in Miami of terrorism conspiracy was hailed by a White House spokesman as "upholding a core American principle of impartial justice for all." Padilla's case was sent to court only after a federal appeals court rejected the Bush administration's claim that he had no right to be tried in the U.S. judicial system. Other alleged terrorists likewise should be regarded as criminal defendants instead of enemy combatants.
Padilla is an American citizen, but a federal appeals court ruled two months ago that "justice for all" also applies to Ali al-Marri, a Qatar citizen and legal U.S. resident who spent four years as an enemy combatant in a Navy brig in South Carolina. He is accused of being an al-Qaida operative.
President Bush has criticized the Clinton administration for treating terror as a crime rather than combat, but that is precisely what it is. Al-Qaida members wear no uniforms and create terror on behalf of what is essentially a gang, not a state. If al-Qaida were a country, its members would be protected from legal action for attacking a military asset.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1950 that enemy aliens detained overseas have no standing in American civilian courts. Technically, that pertains to 380 terrorism suspects held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison, although it is under U.S. control.
Bush should heed the advice of his former secretary of state, Colin Powell, who has called for moving those suspects to the United States for trial in U.S. courts, where they would face criminal charges and have the same rights provided to other criminal defendants.
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