No Time to Celebrate Justice

There is a celebration going on within the U.S. Justice Department.  The lawyers there are patting each other on the back for getting a life sentence for a terrorist.  But, what some might call justice, others are suggesting is really a failure to send a strong message that could act as a deterrent.

 Ahmed Khalfani Ghailani was hand-picked by Osama Bin Laden to lead the terrorist cause on the African continent and he worked as Bin Laden's bodyguard.  He was accused of taking part in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing in East Africa and was picked up on the battlefield of world terrorism and sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.   Of course, the plan was to try him as an enemy combatant, but the Obama administration had a different idea.  Instead, Ghailani was plucked from the military prison and dropped in a civilian courtroom and cloaked in the same rights as any criminal defendant tried in the United States.  Attorney General Eric Holder was confident the charges would stick and he would get multiple convictions.  He was wrong.

 It was a huge black eye for the Justice Department when Ghailani was acquitted on 280 counts of murder and conspiracy for the devastating and despicable acts at the Embassy. 224 people were killed in those bombings.  They convicted him of only one charge of conspiracy to destroy government buildings and property.  In the courtroom, when he was found guilty on that one charge, he would not even look at the faces of the family members who lost their lives in the act of terrorism.  He had no remorse.

 So, now comes sentencing day and the Justice Department is celebrating victory, claiming the life sentence handed down on Monday shows that justice was done.  Attorney General Holder issued a statement saying, “we will not rest in bringing justice to terrorists who seek to harm the American people.”  Legally, however, Ghailani dodged a legal bullet and now is heading to prison to eat free food, use the free legal library and take advantage of free health care. 

 In fact, he nearly got off completely.  His lawyers argued that since all of the other counts were thrown out, the last one should be thrown out, too.  The judge, luckily, said no but now there will be appeals and more taxpayer money spent to give these terrorists a shot in regular civilian courts.  Ghailani is now 36 years old.  He could live another four or five decades. 

 If he had been tried in a military tribunal, would the outcome have been different.  Who knows?  The question we must ultimately ask, after observing this process, is whether or not life in prison is a deterrent to young jihadists from agreeing to brutally murder innocent people to make a political or religious point. 




Categories: Becker’s Digital Notebook