Benjamin Wittes and Jack Goldsmith
The conclusion of Ahmed Ghailani’s trial has brought forth considerable criticism of President Obama’s insistence that such cases proceed in civilian federal courts. However, the popular alternative of a military tribunal is equally fraught and problematic; the detractors have not considered the unique difficulties of that venue or the likelihood of a similar result. The real alternative is continued military detention without trial. An acquittal outcome, risked in either venue, would present disastrous alternatives and should not be risked when an acceptable course of action is available.
Wittes is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Goldsmith teaches at Harvard Law School and served as an assistant attorney general in the Bush administration. Both are members of the Hoover Institution’s Task Force on National Security and Law.