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November 18, 2009

"Obama suggests 9/11 suspect will get death penalty"

The title of this post is the headline of this new Reuters piece. Here is how the piece starts:

U.S. President Barack Obama suggested on Wednesday the self-professed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks would be convicted and put to death, but later said he was not trying to prejudge the trial.

I am bumming that President Obama did not also predict just when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would be executed, especially since the administration of the federal death penalty remains in a virtual legal black hole since some scheduled federal executions were stayed way back in 2006 based on pre-Baze concerns about lethal injection protocols. 

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November 18, 2009 at 05:40 PM | Permalink


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Barack Obama, of all people, joins me in Neanderthalville. Who woulda thunk it?

To those who say this is just politics, I would respond, among other things, that if so, it's sound politics, since elected leaders are properly accountable to their constituents, who overwhelmingly favor the DP generally and even more overwhelmingly favor it in this instance; and that, beyond that, it's just an ad hominem attack on Obama to say that he's doing this for political reasons, rather than that he actually believes KSM deserves it.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 18, 2009 6:18:44 PM

Not a surprise in the least. Obama has publicly supported the death penalty at least since he ran for Senate.

Posted by: AC | Nov 18, 2009 6:28:13 PM

I have long suspected that the Prez and you, Bill, share more than just initials... ;-)

Posted by: Doug B. | Nov 18, 2009 6:29:19 PM

Doug --

Time for me to come clean.

The White House started sending me feelers three months ago to become AAG for the Criminal Divsion. Specifically, my title would be: Bill Otis, Assistant Attorney General, United States Department of Justice, Backside of the Moon Division.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 18, 2009 7:14:07 PM

Why is Obama writing checks he may not be able to cash? Very odd.

Posted by: federalist | Nov 18, 2009 8:10:43 PM

federalist --

Because he's feeling the heat for going the route of civilian court rather than military tribunal. Both CNN and CBS polls confirm that this was an unpopular decision. So he wants to assure the public that KSM will get the DP anyway.

Of course he knows no such thing, and has irresponsibly and needlessly, in my view, reduced the likelihood of getting a conviction, much less the DP.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 18, 2009 8:21:43 PM

I still don't see how they get around "speedy trial" issues.

Plus, how can they be so sure of the death penalty? Federal death prosecutions haven't gone so well in New York. One juror can prevent the imposition of the death penalty. Dont they realize this, and why aren't reporters asking these questions?

Posted by: federalist | Nov 18, 2009 11:53:38 PM


this is the only problem you see?

"I still don't see how they get around "speedy trial" issues."

the bigger and more LEGAL issue is how are they going to try him or the others under laws passed YEARS AFTER 2002

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Nov 19, 2009 2:07:55 AM

Pandering to demagogues. It's what politicians do best.

And while I understand the imperitive to project toughness and eschew softness, I was stunned by Obama's bold assurance we're going to convict the defendants and execute them.

He tried to back-fill, but it was already out there...a certifiable Queen of Hearts-style edict from the leader of the western world.

Posted by: John K | Nov 19, 2009 10:30:11 AM

John K --

"Pandering to demagogues. It's what politicians do best."

As a general matter, I agree that there's a lot of pandering going on. For example, pandering to political correctness very likely led to the Army's sleeping through the obvious warning signs surrounding jihadist Maj. Hasan, which in turn led to the Ft. Hood "Allah is Great" massacre.

But for however that may be, I was wondering what "demagogues" you have in mind. According to a CNN poll a couple of days ago, seventy-eight percent of respondents said they thought KSM should executed if found guilty, almost a quarter of whom said they didn't normally support capital punishment.

Are seventy eight percent of the public "demagogues?"

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 19, 2009 4:52:16 PM

rodsmith: "the bigger and more LEGAL issue is how are they going to try him or the others under laws passed YEARS AFTER 2002"

me: why would they need to use the post 9/11 laws - or even pre-9/11 domestic criminal laws for that matter? The actions of 9/11 clearly violated established international law as it existed 2001 and the U.S. would have jurisdiction to prosecute under the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, 22 U.S.T. 1641 (1971) due to the hijacking of American aircraft.

Posted by: virginia | Nov 20, 2009 11:29:21 AM

The demagogues I was referring to were those citizens or political foes who would seize on any opportunity to portray Obama as weak on terrorism (for "giving terrorists the same rights Americans enjoy")...or reckless with the safety of New Yorkers (for holding the trials there)...etc. etc.

Citizens who buy fear and anger pitches might or might not be demagogues, probably depending on the extent to which they allow their fears and anger to overwhelm rational discussions about whatever it is that's scaring or angering them.

My point, though, was that it was probably Obama's fear of unleashing the forces of demagoguery that triggered his macho-man, first-the-verdict-then-the-trial remarks.

In other words, I think it was his apprehensions about making himself vulnerable to those prone to attack him as weak on terrorism that spurred him to say something so clearly inappropriate...especially for an Ivy League egghead like Obama.

Posted by: John K | Nov 20, 2009 5:58:30 PM

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