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By now, we've all heard the main objection to trying Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and friends in New York--the possibility that they could be acquitted on a technicality.  Indeed, WorldNutDaily is already starting a petition drive urging Congress to bar the courts from trying unlawful combatants--and Repubs are reportedly drawing up bills in Congress to this effect.  This whole affair brings to mind a fairly recent instance where a manifestly guilty defendant was allowed to walk--the Ted Stevens corruption trial.

Let's review.  The government had what appeared to be a pretty airtight corruption case against Stevens.  However, the prosecution brazenly refused to turn over potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense, and may have even knowingly allowed the star witness, Bill Allen, to perjure himself on the witness stand.  The latter instance, to my non-lawyer's mind, would have been enough by itself to throw the whole verdict out.  Considering the circumstances, Eric Holder had no choice but to effectively vacate Stevens' conviction.  The message couldn't have been more obvious--no one is above the law, but no one is below the law either.

The reaction among Repubs then?  An awful lot of anger over Stevens supposedly getting railroaded--by Bush's Justice Department, no less.  And some even wanted Mark Begich to resign and run in a special election, feeling that his victory was tainted by "interference" from the Justice Department.  

Unfortunately, it was far too much to expect a party that seems to think what a president does as commander-in-chief is not illegal to have any concept of the rule of law.  The same Repubs who thought Stevens got a raw deal now won't even hear of--horrors!--actually giving the 9-11 masterminds a fair trial.  Same concept applies, as I see it.  We know that these guys are manifestly guilty.  However, not allowing them a trial would fly in the face of who we are.  And even in the remote chance that they are acquitted, the blame would rightly lie on the CIA and the Bush Justice Department for adopting an extreme win-at-all-costs stance (torture, etc.).

So the next time one of your Repub friends wrings his or her hands about this upcoming trial, remind them of Ted Stevens--and see how they react.

Originally posted to Christian Dem in NC on Thu Dec 03, 2009 at 02:18 PM PST.

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