I am proud of our men and women in the military for successfully carrying out the operation that finally killed Osama bin Laden. In his speech, President Obama told the families of the 9/11 victims that “justice has been done,” and indeed it has. It was also inspiring to see the outpouring of national pride, both on TV and online in forums like Twitter and Facebook.
But Osama’s death reminds me that there are many forms of justice. Sometimes, justice comes in the form of a firefight; but other times, it happens in a court of law. That is why I immediately thought of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the 9/11 co-conspirator that was going to be tried in a civilian court until the Administration announced last month that he would instead be tried before a military commission in Guantánamo Bay. Now that bin Laden is dead, I think it’s more important than ever to bring someone else who was directly responsible for the 9/11 attacks to justice in that other way: by putting on evidence, in a court of law, and having a jury decide his guilt or innocence.
Indeed, when the Administration announced its change of heart, I wasn’t sure whether I agreed or disagreed with the decision. It’s a genuinely difficult issue. But now that we have successfully achieved one kind of justice, it seems more important that we at least try for that other kind. A fair and open trial of KSM will deliver it to us and to the world in a way that a secretive trial before a military commission is unlikely to. After this historic success, I wonder if anyone in the Administration feels like I do: craving the form of justice found in our federal courts a little bit more than he was before May 1, 2011.