The wheels of justice...
As most of the U.S. government remained closed last week, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York quietly, efficiently and safely conducted an arraignment for Abu Anas al Libi.
During the congressional paralysis, several senators surfaced long enough to insist that al Libi, who had been indicted for his alleged role in the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzia in 1998, be held at Guantanamo Bay and prosecuted by a military tribunal.
The notion that the federal courts should not handle terrorism suspects has become something of a mantra on the far right. There is nothing, however, to suggest that the federal court system cannot effectively handle those cases.
Even as critics have insisted upon trying terrorism suspects only in military tribunals, federal courts successfully have handled dozens of cases.
The Department of Justice has abundant expertise in the prosecution of such cases. And, as a philosophical matter, the trials in conventional U.S. courts offer a chance to show the world that the United States is a nation of laws.
Delta Force commandos seized al Libi in Tripoli, Libya, on Oct. 5. The suspect was brought to a U.S. warship in the Mediterranean Sea and interrogated for a week by the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, the same unit that conducts interrogations at Guantanamo and several other sites.
Use of conventional courts also will hasten the day when the Guantanamo camps finally close. Around the world, the name of the detention center has been used by terrorists as a recruiting tool. The camps diminish the United States' ability to claim moral authority when condemning other nations' human rights violations.
The administration was correct to bring the al Libi case to New York, where he was indicted. It should use the federal court system in similar case whenever possible.