Putting American justice on trial

Monday, November 23, 2009

The core flaw in Michael Gerson's criticism of Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.'s decision to try Guantanamo detainees in the United States is captured in the columnist's statement that "the guilt of these terrorists is not in question" ["Holder's trials and errors," op-ed, Nov. 18]. Mr. Gerson's comment echoes the Queen of Hearts in "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" when she orders "the sentence before the verdict" in the trial of the Knave of Hearts.

It seems to me that the guilt of many Guantanamo detainees is precisely what is in question, since there has not been a transparent process for proving their culpability.

Leonard B. Zuza, Lusby


Thirty years ago, I was a prosecutor in a terrorism trial in the United States, prosecuting agents of the Chilean secret police who murdered former Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier and his assistant Ronni Moffitt, blowing up the car they were riding in at Sheridan Circle in the heart of Embassy Row in 1976.

During a recess in the trial, I was in the hallway outside the heavily guarded courtroom, and I heard one spectator remark, "Ya know, those terrorists don't look so scary in a big, marbled courtroom surrounded by U.S. marshals!" A simple observation that said much.

Terrorists' primary weapon is fear. Eric Holder knows this, and thanks to his correct decision, Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his acolytes will be seen for the little motes they are, surrounded by American justice for all to see, observed in court by Americans they cannot defeat in a city whose spirit they could not put down. This was a courageous decision by the attorney general.

E. Lawrence Barcella Jr., Washington

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