The bizarre extra-legal saga of Ali Saleh Al-Marri [the second most important case of our lifetimes, after Padilla's] appears to be at an end, with America's last stateside "enemy combatant" pleading guilty to purportedly providing support to Al Qaeda, with sentence to follow of up to 15 years (with some significant credit for time-served, presumably). For background on this bizarre case, check out my interview with Al-Marri's attorney Jonathan Hafetz.
The obvious question is... after six years of the inhuman cruelty of holding Al-Marri in total isolation is... why was this so damned hard? When presented with the possibility of a fair trial, Al-Marri folded and entered a guilty plea (just as took place with other war on terror players actually charged in the criminal justice system, such as John Walker Lindh,
Harry Richard Reid, and Zaccarias Moussaoui). Why was it necessary to try to set the example that persons lawfully in the United States could be "disappeared" without judicial proceeding? Precisely for the purpose of demonstrating that the government could do it, and get away with it.
And now, doubtless, the usual suspects will tell us how dictatorial tactics were appropriate all along, because, well, Al-Marri has admitted to being a terrrrrrrorist. Which has never been the point: the point is... we could have shown the world that we deal even with terrorists in an orderly, just and fair manner. But nooooo... we had to have demonstration projects for disappearing people.
And so, at the end of the day, the handling of Al-Marri's case has made us all less safe, by an almost infinite factor... (1) because not only are we less safe because of how many additional terrorists our actions have enabled A.Q. and the other bad guys to recruit, and (2) because now it is established law (at least in one of our federal circuits, the one that includes Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas) that the United States is a dictatorship: the President can wave a wand and utter "Enemy Combatantus"... and you, me, or anyone, can be disappeared at executive whim, beyond the ken of the courts.
And if you ask me... and boys and girls, I was a block from the WTC on 9-11 and I go to work every day halfway between the New York Stock Exchange and the former WTC... and the President right now was a college classmate of mine... and yet, how can I say this: it's the second one that scares the hell out of me, and (for those of you who don't have your heads up your asses) should scare the hell out of you too.
As always... that's just me.