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Holder was Right to Charge "Underwear Bomber" as a Federal Crime

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Let's give credit where credit is due. On Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder defended his decision to prosecute the "underwear bomber" suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab with "federal crimes" rather than declaring him an "enemy combatant". That latter status was the one preferred by Republicans still locked in the mindset of George Bush's "war on terror" notion, wanting the suspect placed in a military facility in indefinite detention as a "prisoner of war".

Not only is the Republicans' reasoning wrong, it almost assures Abdulmutallab years of detention without prosecution for any crime. The military tribunal system established by Bush was an abysmal failure, failing to prosecute a single detainee. That system of justice (injustice?) had many suspects swept up (being in the wrong place at the wrong time) and later discovered they weren't "terrorists or enemy combatants" and were innocent. Yet many have of these people continue to be held in detention as their home countries have refused to accept them back, perhaps tainted with the stain of being labeled "terrorists".

This is not only a system of injustice, but illegal under the Constitution. Indefinite detention without being charged isn't found anywhere in the Constitution and is a stain on that document. This goes to the very heart of who we are as a people.

The indignation by Republicans is hard to understand, believing as they do that "treating terrorists like civilians damages our ability to gather crucial intelligence," this from the" esteemed" Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama.

Is the senator oblivious to undisputed evidence that many detainees have been tortured in military detention facilities, essentially preventing many from being prosecuted? Evidence of culpability gained under duress is often proved unusable for the prosecution, particularly if it is shown to have been coerced. Often the suspect will say anything to stop the painful interrogation. It has been found (though not necessarily proven) that civilian (FBI) legal interrogation methods produce far more information and intelligence than military or CIA interrogators (who we know have been "cut loose" in using "enhanced techniques" [torture] while interrogating suspects).

Lastly, Abdulmutallab, after keeping silent during his initial interrogation, has since begun to cooperate, particularly after meeting with his family while in custody.

Whether Republicans are acting out of conscience or object to anything the Obama administration does, is not exactly clear, but in this case it is irrelevant.

Abdulmutallab was formally charged with "federal crimes". He will be prosecuted and in all likelihood will be found guilty as charged and imprisoned for a very long time. It will all have been legal and justice will have been served.

Indignant Republicans may find that outcome unsatisfactory, but it will be a good example of justice fairly taken and legitimate in the eyes of most people. It's how the rule of law should work.


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