The Dreadful Uncertainties Of A Fair Trial

Every now and again, you read a banal sentence in the newspaper that, after a moment's thought, takes one's breath away. Check out this NYT sentence on the prosecution by military commission of Khaled Sheikh Muhammed:

Mr. Ghailani's case ended up stiffening resistance to civilian trials because a jury acquitted him on more than 280 charges. Although he was still convicted on one count and sentenced to life in prison, critics pointed to the result as a sign that civilian trials were too uncertain.

Have we really sunk to the idea that verdicts in terror suspect trials need to be fixed in advance? And what does that logic say about the fairness of military tribunals? Once more, the 9/11 massacre leads to our suspension of ancient traditions – like habeas corpus, the absolute ban on torture, the Fourth Amendment and an open trial by jury. Al Qaeda could never destroy our values alone. We did it for them.