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Fox’s Shannon Bream Helps Michael Mukasey Dissemble About Military Commissions And Terror Trials

Reported by Ellen - November 27, 2010 -

Michael Mukasey, an Attorney General during the George W. Bush presidency, seemed more interested in advancing the right-wing witch hunt against the current Attorney General, Eric Holder, than in putting forth the truth about military commissions and the recent trial of terror suspect Ahmed Ghailani. Rather than rejoice in the fact that Ghailani will get a minimum sentence of 20 years, Mukasey joined the Fox News chorus of carping that Ghailani would have been found guilty of more, harsher crimes had he been tried in a military commission. Mukasey and Fox News host Shannon Bream suggested that justice had somehow been denied because Ghailani had received a lawyer and legal rights, without pointing out to the “we report, you decide” network’s audience that military tribunals are also trials with due process and lawyers. You'd think a former Attorney General would not dissemble like that. But not only did Bream, an attorney, allow him to do so, she also failed to mention that civilian trials have had harsher outcomes than military trials. (H/T reader Ira R.)

Morris Davis, a former Air Force colonel and the chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, from 2005 to 2007, is someone with the street cred to evaluate civilian trials vs. military commissions. Davis wrote about the Ghailani trial in a recent New York Times editorial:

Those who claim to know that the government would have gotten a more favorable ruling in a military commission are ignoring the record.

Davis also observed,

Consider Mohammed Jawad, an Afghan teenager who was charged with attempted murder for throwing a grenade at an American vehicle in Kabul in 2002. In 2008 a military judge, Col. Stephen Henley, suppressed incriminating statements Mr. Jawad had made after he was beaten and his family threatened while he was in Afghan custody. The military commission charges were later dropped and last year the United States sent Mr. Jawad home to Afghanistan.

...Of the four detainees who participated in their military commissions, Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who was 15 when arrested, is serving the longest sentence after pleading guilty to murder. Yet he will serve no more than eight years behind bars, less than half of Mr. Ghailani’s minimum incarceration. Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s former driver, was sentenced to five and half years in 2008 but given credit for time served; five months later he was free. There is no reason to assume that a military commission sentence will be more severe than one from a federal court.

None of Morris’ points got mentioned in Bream’s interview with the obviously partisan Mukasey. Instead, Bream either implicitly or explicitly assisted Mukasey in advancing his attacks.

For example, Mukasey said the decision to try Ghailani in civilian court had "some unfortunate and even dangerous implications.” Bream did not challenge his contention nor did she ask him to provide any examples of ways the country has been endangered.

Bream noted that evidence in the trial had been excluded “because there were arguments that Ghailani had been tortured.” But rather than confront Mukasey on the Bush administration’s treatment of terror suspects, Bream sympathetically said, “I thought it was interesting that some within the Department of Justice have said that they blame the previous administration because the mistreatment of Ghailani and the handling of his case happened on your watch. How do you respond?”

“Ghailani was not treated in any way that was unlawful,” Mukasey said. Notice he didn’t say Ghailani was not tortured. It was a detail that either escaped Bream or was deemed not worth noting.

Mukasey also said Ghailani “was treated in a way that might have made statements made by him inadmissible in a federal court. On the other hand, there is no question that valuable information was gotten from him that led to evidence that could have been used against him in a military commission.”

Well, according to Davis that’s debatable, not a certainty. But Bream let Mukasey’s statement stand without comment.

Instead, Bream prodded Mukasey to attack the DOJ by “asking,” “What do you think this does now, for the Department of Justice and the Attorney General moving forward? They are celebrating and saying that this is a conviction, I mean that’s a positive thing… Do you think the rest of the world views it that way?” Since America Live airs during what is supposed to be part of Fox News’ “objective news” block, if Bream thought this was an important piece of information, she could have and should have reported on how the rest of the world viewed the conviction, rather than relying on a fear-mongering GOP operative with no evident expertise in that regard.

Mukasey said that to convict Ghailani of only conspiring to destroy government property, as opposed to an act of terrorism, “is a cruel travesty.”

I wonder if Mukasey thought Al Capone’s conviction of tax evasion was a “cruel travesty” or a realistic, pragmatic working of the law. Bream, of course, didn’t ask.

Then Mukasey really poured on the dissembling and the fear mongering. He said the verdict “tells terrorists that they don’t have to look forward to anything too terribly dangerous if they come here. They have an opportunity to get a lawyer and a trial, which under normal rules they would not get at all.”

Instead of challenging such an outrageous statement, Bream got with Mukasey’s program. “Just going back a few years, did you ever expect that terror suspects would be afforded these kinds of rights?”

“No,” he said.

You can contact the show at Kelly@foxnews.com.

Video of the segment is at RealClearPolitics.

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