By Dick Morris on November 14, 2009

President Obama’s decision to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on trial in New York City along with four others accused of helping destroy the World Trade Center and attack the Pentagon on 9-11 paints a bulls-eye for terrorists right on New York City, their favorite target. Now Obama has identified where the terrorists should focus their energies – on New York City.

His decision to bow to political correctness and not to try Mohammed at a secure military base and to try him in a civilian court, according him all the rights of an American citizen, raises important questions:

Most importantly, is the admissible evidence against Mohammed damning enough to secure a conviction? The evidentiary requirements protecting an American citizen on trial are far stricter than those which would apply to an enemy combatant before a military tribunal. We already watched how the twentieth hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui escaped the death penalty because the evidence the government could use against him in a civilian criminal court was limited by his civil liberties. As a result, the data from his computer, which had not been seized pursuant to the Fourth Amendment, could not be entered into evidence against him. Failing such evidence, the feds had to settle for a life sentence.

Since much of the evidence against Mohammed was gathered through interrogations before which he may not have been read his Miranda rights and during which he may have been water-boarded, one wonders how much of his statement that he was the mastermind of 9-11 is going to be admissible. It could be that he will use the very constitution of the very government he seeks to destroy to protect himself from the death penalty or even life in prison.

The decision to try him in a civilian court also confronts the Department of Justice with a difficult decision on how much of the evidence against Mohammed should be aired publicly. Our anti-terror investigations depend on secrecy and the FBI and Homeland Security agents may not relish having their methods publicized in open court. There is even the possibility that there will be a global backlash in favor of Mohammed as his defense lawyer – paid for by the American taxpayer – will make him appear to be the victim of over-zealous investigators and prosecutors rather than the perpetrator of one of the greatest mass murders in history.

In any event, President Obama is affording the terrorists exactly what they wanted in the first place – a global stage right near New York’s theater district. The very goal of terrorism is to attract world-wide attention and, by trying Mohammed in a civilian court in the middle of New York City, President Obama is giving them the stage they want on which to articulate their perceived grievances.

Finally, there is the disturbing question of what will happen if Mohammed and/or his some of his confreres are found to be not guilty. Where will they be released? Will they walk out of the courtroom free to prowl the streets of New York, their transportation having been paid courtesy of the taxpayers? Will they be flown to Afghanistan to resume their plots against our government and our people, again at taxpayer expense?

What Obama should have done was to try Mohammed before a military tribunal, without the full rights of an American citizen (which, of course, he is not) and, after a guilty verdict, executed him. But this president bows before political correctness above all else and he may just have done Mohammed and al Qaeda a big, big favor.

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