WHEN THE SYSTEM WORKS AS IT SHOULD…. Five months ago, Faisal Shahzad tried and failed to set off a car bomb in Times Square. He was quickly identified and apprehended, initiating a process in which the Obama administration played by the rules.
Once Shahzad was taken into custody, the Justice Department invoked a public safety exception to delay making him aware of his rights. The suspect was then interrogated by the FBI’s High Value Interrogation Group, producing useful intelligence. At that point, Shahzad was Mirandized — and continued to share useful information.
Yesterday, the process reached its conclusion when a federal district court in Manhattan sentenced Shahzad to life in prison. During the proceedings, Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum took some time to chastise the defendant, and left him with a parting shot: “I do hope that you will spend some of the time in prison thinking carefully about whether the Koran wants you to kill lots of people.”
With all of this in mind, I can’t help but wonder, isn’t this about the time that far-right activists throw a fit? Shouldn’t Rudy Giuliani and Liz Cheney be all over the airwaves, expressing their outrage?
Conservatives don’t always apply their principles consistently, but it seemed likely to me that we were in for another terrorism-related freak-out this morning. After all, the Obama administration arrested a terrorist, detained him on American soil, tried him in an American civilian court, and will lock him up until he dies in an American prison. This is, of course, precisely the scenario Republicans, who want terrorist suspects tried in military courts, inexplicably find offensive.
But given the success, the White House has reason to be pleased.
The White House touted the life sentence imposed on Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad on Tuesday as evidence that the criminal justice system is capable of meting out swift and severe punishment in terrorism cases, notwithstanding Republican complaints that the military and the CIA are better suited to interrogating alleged terrorists.
“We are pleased that this terrorist has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison, after providing substantial intelligence to our interrogators, and a speedy civilian trial,” White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said.
“We tried the case in a civilian court, we were able to use everything that he said and everything that we uncovered for intelligence collection purposes. His trial served no propaganda purpose for al Qaeda, and only underscored the strength of our justice system,” Shapiro added. “The case shows once again how our values and the rule of law can keep us safe against those determined to do us harm on behalf of terrorist organizations overseas.”
There were some complaints from the likes of Cheney and Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) — both said U.S. officials were “lucky” — but when the process works as it should, it’s easier to ignore their lack of confidence in the American justice system.
As for what’s next, Shahzad will join several hundred other terrorists who are permanently detained in American prisons. Since terrorists don’t have superpowers, there’s no sensible reason for concern.