Reckless judicial arrogance was on display in Seattle earlier today during the sentencing hearing for al Qaeda operative Ahmed Ressam, the would-be Millennium bomber.
Hugh Hewitt is all over the actions and statement of Judge John Coughenour, a Reagan appointee who is an embarrassment to conservatives and an impediment to winning the War on Terror. The headlines say Ressam was sentenced to 22 years in jail for plotting to blow up Los Angeles International Airport on the millennium. Prosecutors pushed for the max: 35 years. Ressam will get credit for the 5 years he has already been in custody; he may be out and free to do al Qaeda’s bidding again in as little as 14 years.
Coughenour used the occasion to pat himself on the back, express his opposition to military tribunals and detention of enemy combatants, and argue in support of applying the full panoply of constitutional rights to foreign al Qaeda conspirators. Hewitt points to Coughenour’s sentencing sermon and writes:
Whatever the message the judge hoped to send, the one he in fact did send was to Islamicists all around the globe: Come to America. Try and kill us. Either you succeed and get to your version of heaven, or you’ll get a second chance 22 years later after spending a couple of decades setting up networks that can help you with round 2.
The arrogance of this renegade judge’s lecture is simply beyond belief. Congress should summon the judge to testify as to his inane remarks, but precede and follow his appearnce with panels comprised of vitims of terror and the families of military killed in the war.
I am ashamed to say Judge Coughenour is a Reagan appointee.
Ed Morrissey and guest-blogger Dafydd weigh in forcefully at Captain’s Quarters, adding background on other nitwit Coughenour rulings. This from Ed is key:
…I will point out something that Judge Coughenour seems to have forgotten in his zeal to hold himself up as a Constitutional protector, as opposed to the rest of us police-state brownshirts. We captured this terrorist on American soil, mostly by luck and the sharp eye of airport security. Under most circumstances, that does mean that the civilian courts would come into play. If we had traced the terrorist using highly-sensitive intelligence capabilities, however, we would have to have exposed them in Judge Coughenour’s court, making them unusable after a single prosecution.
Next, a point which Coughenour elides, the detainees at Guantanamo and elsewhere were captured outside the United States, as part of our military operations. Those people not only do not qualify as civilian prisoners, they don’t qualify as POWs. Even if they qualified for the latter, the Geneva Conventions do not allow us to try them in civilian courts.
It’s all well and good to sit on one’s high horse (or bench, in this case) and proclaim one’s devotion to the Constitution. It’s quite another to understand the proper application of law in wartime and the nature of the enemies arrayed against us. It comes as no surprise that Judge Coughenour displays his expertise at the first and his absolute incompetence at the second, especially given the laughably light sentence he handed to a man who planned on blowing up hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans to celebrate his religion and the new century.
I’ve noted the pitfalls of prosecuting the War on Terror in civilian courts before:
Look at the trial of Omar Abdul Rahman, the sheik who plotted the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. He used his lawyer, Lynne Stewart, to pass messages to terrorists abroad. Then there is the so-called “20th hijacker” Zacarias Moussaoui, an al Qaeda operative who has asserted the right to see classified documents and the right to interrogate captured al Qaeda combatants being detained abroad.
Finally, there is the issue of witness intimidation. Our police can’t even protect people who testify against domestic gangsters. What hope would they have of protecting someone who testifies against an al Qaeda operative?
Memo to Judge Coughenour: This is a war. Not a “struggle.” Not a constitutional law seminar.
The man is a fool and a threat.
Update: NYTimes coverage here.
Hewitt says: Send Coughenour an umbrella.
John Kerry wants to make Osama the next O.J.