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Return of the 9/11 President

"'By trying these men before flawed military commissions in Guantanamo Bay, the United States makes the system the center of attention rather the defendants and their alleged crimes.'"

And then there's the controversy about using evidence elicited through torture.

Josh White, Dan Eggen and Joby Warrick write in The Washington Post that the charges are "based partly on information the men disclosed to FBI and military questioners without the use of coercive interrogation tactics.

"The admissions made by the men -- who were given food whenever they were hungry as well as Starbucks coffee at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- played a key role in the government's decision to proceed with the prosecutions, military and law enforcement officials said.

"FBI and military interrogators who began work with the suspects in late 2006 called themselves the 'Clean Team' and set as their goal the collection of virtually the same information the CIA had obtained from five of the six through duress at secret prisons."

Nevertheless, "Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents one of the detainees charged and many more at Guantanamo Bay, said the cases are 'essentially show trials, as President Bush is leaving his tarnished legacy to the next president.'"

The White House made it clear that it wanted a 9/11 trial before the end of President Bush's term. But Carol Rosenberg and Nancy A. Youssef write for McClatchy Newspapers: "Knowledgeable legal experts, however, said it's unlikely that they can be tried speedily, meaning the cases probably won't be heard before the Bush administration leaves office next January."

And yet, that actually may be part of the plan, writes Will Bunch in his Philadelphia Daily News blog: "[I]t is unlikely, with appeals and the like, that any conviction and death penalty could be carried out as quickly as January. That lays the problem on the lap of the next president -- regardless of whether it's McCain, Clinton or Obama -- who would have to either affirm the military tribunals, or else declare on the first day of their presidency that one of their first officials acts will be to overturn a death sentence for a 9/11 mastermind.

"That's a classic Rovian political trap if I ever saw one. And it's more proof that undoing the nightmare eight years of Bush and Cheney is going to be a lot more work than simply placing a right hand on the Bible."

Torture, Continued

Bush spoke at some length about torture in his Fox News interview. All in all, it sounded like he was walking back spokesman Tony Fratto's assertion last week that the president might approve more waterboarding. Bush sided in the interview with CIA director Michael Hayden's view that waterboarding was legal when it was conducted in 2002 and 2003, but may no longer be legal.

Said Bush: "First of all, whatever we have done was legal, and whatever decision I will make will be reviewed by the Justice Department to determine whether or not the legality is there. And the reason why there is a difference between what happened in the past and today, there is a new law."

Then, however, Bush made an unsupported claim, and issued a challenge that the media and his critics should pick up with vigor: "The American people have got to know that what we did in the past gained information that prevented an attack. And for those who criticize what we did in the past, I ask them, which attack would they rather have not permitted -- stopped? Which attack on America did they -- would they have said, well, you know, maybe it wasn't all that important that we stop those attacks."


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