Earlier today, Sam Stein reported on Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), taking a new approach to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed terror-trial fearmongering by raising the specter of O.J. Simpson. I gather that what Grassley wanted to convey was an scenario in which the ghost of Johnnie Cochran gets KSM acquitted, because of racism, and then the terrorist is set free, to become some sort of golf-course-haunting pariah.
Presumably, he'll get Judith Regan fired again from Harper Collins and will only end up in jail at last after he tries to jack some guy in Vegas in an effort to get back some of his terrorist memorabilia. Maybe there will even be a cross-country Ford Bronco chase, with Falcon Heene! If this scenario develops, I promise to liveblog the whole thing, after which I will surely win all the Pulitzers.
But! Is it at all plausible to suggest that KSM is going to come away from his upcoming trial acquitted on these charges, to walk among us as a free man? As it turns out, no! Or, as Adam Serwer of the American Prospect puts it, "No. Not Ever." That's because the "same legal rationale that could have been used to hold him indefinitely will be used to hold him in case of an acquittal." And beyond that, there are further options:
"They have three sources of authority that would allow him to detain [KSM], one of which is the [Authorization to Use Military Force], because it directly cites the 9/11 attacks in its language -- the people who planned the 9/11 attacks are combatants and are detainable under the AUMF," explains Ken Gude, a human-rights expert at the Center for American Progress. "Under the .000001 chance that they are acquitted, they will have that authority to detain them."
The attorney general could detain him as an "international terrorist" indefinitely, in renewable six-month periods, based on a provision in the PATRIOT Act. And if things really get desperate, they could detain him as someone who is in the United States illegally, pending deportation. Since no country is going to take a mass murdering terrorist, that detention will essentially be indefinite.
On the prospect of KSM being released, Gude shrugs, "It isn't even in the realm of possibility."
Of course, Serwer is correct to point out the dark side to all of this: "That may make some of us feel safer, but it's also part of the reason why the ACLU's Jonathan Hafetz argues that U.S. detention policy is 'essentially lawless.'"
But look: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is not going to be the next O.J., he's not going to get acquitted and end up starting a new life working for some Brooklyn food co-op, and he's not going to be toddling down to Mexico to start a new life running chartered fishing trips with Andy Dufresne. So, Chuck Grassley should feel free to shut up and stop pretending otherwise.