An open and impartial judicial system is a cornerstone of any democracy. No one is guaranteed a perfect trial, but as much transparency as possible in the courtroom is necessary for building trust in the system, especially for a nation that likes to hold itself up as an example to the world as often as does the United States.
That’s why it is confusing and confounding to see any disagreement about whether Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab should be tried in federal court, or by special tribunal. Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up an Amsterdam-to-Detroit plane on Christmas Day, is a criminal. He was caught in the act with multiple witnesses. Super-secret intelligence gathering techniques will not be exposed by his public trial. (Why we’d be worried about exposing these super-secret intelligence gathering techniques in this case is questionable, since they had nothing to do with stopping him.) Try him in open court. A conviction is likely; I doubt a jury made up of the twelve primary contributors to DailyKos would exonerate this guy. This is how to show the rest of the world our open system not only functions as well or better than anything they could come up with, and we are not afraid to trust it.
Dick Cheney et al want Abdulmutallab tried by tribunal and, presumably, tortured to get whatever information he has, even though he is said to be cooperating fully. Is Cheney afraid? Need we even ask that question, as familiar as we all are with the former Secretary of Defense’s Vietnam-era military record?
A free society is not without risk. The framers of the Constitution were well aware of that, yet they still insisted on the Bill of Rights. The Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments are clear: everyone is entitled to protection from unreasonable search and seizure, the right not to give self-incriminating testimony, a speedy and public trial, and cannot be subjected to excessive bail or cruel and unusual punishment. Hair-splitting about whether someone should get a public trial is anti-Constitutional on its face.
A quote I’ve borrowed for my e-mail signature reads, “I prefer a man who will burn the flag and then wrap himself in the Constitution to a man who will burn the Constitution and then wrap himself in the flag.” The second man is a hypocrite and a coward. If anyone is not worthy of Constitutional protection, it is he.