Education for Justice speaker discusses terrorism trialsKaren Greenberg in The Scranton Times Tribune, April 23, 2012
As part of the Education for Justice series “Finding Justice After 9/11,” national security expert Karen J. Greenberg recently spoke at The University of Scranton about terrorism trials and the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
Greenberg began her talk recalling the date of Nov. 13, 2009, when United States Attorney General Eric Holder announced 9/11 attack conspirators would be brought from their prisons in Guantanamo Bay to the United States for trials. Though this was a triumphant moment for many Americans, Greenberg said, the plan was canceled the next spring.
She then discussed the events leading up to this reversal.
According to Greenberg, who wrote “The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First 100 Days,” after the 9/11 attacks, the military needed a place to put newly captured enemies, and decided on Guantanamo Bay. “They knew there was no military code that could help,” she said. “They just needed a place.”
The prison’s population grew quickly. The military found they needed to decide what exactly to do with the prisoners, and whether to adjudicate them or not. Although they came up with a system of military commissions, Greenberg said, the system proved to be a failure. The Department of Justice attempted to create a system to adjudicate terrorists, but hit unexpected roadblocks when an American citizen was captured.
“You can imagine the passions and anger of the United States government when it found among its first detainees an American,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg was present for the trial of alleged Al Qaeda accomplice Ahmed Ghailani. She said the Obama administration moved Ghailani from Guantanamo Bay to federal court in Manhattan where he would be tried and the unexpected verdict would be delivered.
“Of all of the moments I have spent on this earth, none has floored me or anybody in that courtroom more than that moment,” Greenberg said of the jury’s not guilty verdict.
While the jury found Ghailani not guilty, the judge nevertheless gave him a life sentence.
Greenberg said the government is still in the assessment stage, and has not come up with a solution yet for trying terrorists involved with 9/11.
Greenberg is the director of the center on National Security at Fordham University School of Law and a permanent member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Her work has appeared in several news outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times.
Rosa Todaro, King’s Park, N.Y., is a English major with a minor in communication at The University of Scranton.