CCR on Ghailani

By Benjamin Wittes
Thursday, November 18, 2010, 10:13 AM

The Center for Constitutional Rights has issued what I think is a genuinely shocking statement on the Ghailani verdict--one which really lays bare the group's position on terrorist trials:

CCR questions the ability of anyone who is Muslim to receive a truly fair trial in any American judicial forum post-9/11. Both the military commission system and federal criminal trials have serious flaws.  However, on balance the Ghailani verdict shows that federal criminal trials are far superior to military commissions for the simple yet fundamental reason that they prohibit evidence obtained by torture.  If anyone is unsatisfied with Ghailani's acquittal on 284 counts, they should blame the CIA agents who tortured him.
That's right, folks: Faced with a jury that just acquitted an Al Qaeda terrorist on 284 counts and convicted on only one, CCR is expressing doubt that any Muslim can receive a fair trial in any American judicial forum. The group prefers trials in federal court only "on balance" and despite the "serious flaws" of those trials. CCR also, of course, opposes non-criminal detention (the statement proudly boasts that CCR has "led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last eight years"), and it is currently seeking judicial intervention in the government's efforts to target Anwar Al-Aulaqi. All of which raises the question: What does the group think is a desirable way to deal with terrorists? The answer is not written in the statement, but the statement is pregnant with it: CCR will oppose any governmental response to terrorism.
I learned of this statement because of an approving "tweet" by Human Rights First's Daphne Eviatar--who called it a "nice statement." I don't think it is a nice statement. I think it is a depressing statement, one that reflects a deep lack of faith in the capacity of a liberal society to act fairly under stress. Given Eviatar's comment on it, I would be curious to know if Human Rights First--which has campaigned tirelessly for trials in federal courts--stands by CCR's contention that no Muslim can get a fair trial in one.