Third, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will have no more of a platform to spew his hateful ideology in federal court than he would have in military commissions. Before the commissions last year, he declared the proceedings an "inquisition," condemned his own attorneys and our Constitution, and professed his desire to become a martyr. Those proceedings were heavily covered in the media, yet few complained at the time that his rants threatened the fabric of our democracy.
Judges in federal court have firm control over the conduct of defendants and other participants in their courtrooms, and when the 9/11 conspirators are brought to trial, I have every confidence that the presiding judge will ensure appropriate decorum. And if KSM makes the same statements he made in his military commission proceedings, I have every confidence the nation and the world will see him for the coward he is. I'm not scared of what KSM will have to say at trial - and no one else needs to be either.
Fourth, there is nothing common about the treatment the alleged 9/11 conspirators will receive. In fact, I expect to direct prosecutors to seek the ultimate and most uncommon penalty for these heinous crimes. And I expect that they will be held in custody under Special Administrative Measures reserved for the most dangerous criminals.
Finally, there are some who have said this decision means that we have reverted to a pre-9/11 mentality, or that we don't realize this nation is at war. Three weeks ago, I had the honor of joining the President at Dover Air Force Base for the dignified transfer of the remains of eighteen Americans, including three DEA agents, who lost their lives to the war in Afghanistan. The brave soldiers and agents carried home on that plane gave their lives to defend this country and its values, and we owe it to them to do everything we can to carry on the work for which they sacrificed.
I know that we are at war.
I know that we are at war with a vicious enemy who targets our soldiers on the battlefield in Afghanistan and our civilians on the streets here at home. I have personally witnessed that somber fact in the faces of the families who have lost loved ones abroad, and I have seen it in the daily intelligence stream I review each day. Those who suggest otherwise are simply wrong.
Prosecuting the 9/11 defendants in federal court does not represent some larger judgment about whether or not we are at war. We are at war, and we will use every instrument of national power - civilian, military, law enforcement, intelligence, diplomatic, and others - to win. We need not cower in the face of this enemy. Our institutions are strong, our infrastructure is sturdy, our resolve is firm, and our people are ready.
We will also use every instrument of our national power to bring to justice those responsible for terrorist attacks against our people. For eight years, justice has been delayed for the victims of the 9/11 attacks. It has been delayed even further for the victims of the attack on the USS Cole. No longer. No more delays. It is time, it is past time, to act. By bringing prosecutions in both our courts and military commissions, by seeking the death penalty, by holding these terrorists responsible for their actions, we are finally taking ultimate steps toward justice. That is why I made this decision.
I thought his opening statement was excellent and really framed the issue from a position of strength. When he said:
I'm not scared of what KSM will have to say at trial - and no one else needs to be either.
I found that to be very powerful in political terms. On the one hand it puts anyone who opposes this move on the defensive. If he is advocating and implementing a plan to bring KSM to justice in a federal court and he is not scared, what does that make anyone who opposes such a move? And make no mistake about it, even though Republicans are fearmongering hard against it, the truth is none of them want to be labeled as scared. They might say the "fear" something will happen or they are "concerned" but you will never hear them admit they are "scared".
The American people don't like scaredy cats leading them. They want strong leaders who take information into account, but they abhor a coward.
On the other hand when Holder says no one else should be either, he is playing the role of comforter for the nations bedwetters and worry worts. If he isn't afraid then why should any of the rest of us be? And of course no regular person wants to feel like they are acting like a scaredy cat too.
If Democrats were smart they would continue to use the term "scared" in every debate about this issue. Not afraid, not concerned, not fearful, but SCARED.
See how many Republicans run away from that term as soon as it gets thrown around.