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FARC Leader Convicted

Gabe Rottman,
Legislative Counsel,
ACLU Washington Legislative Office
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July 12, 2007

I posted about this a while ago.A federal court convicted the Columbian FARC leader, Ricardo Palmera, two days ago for the abduction of three military contractors, held for years as de facto POWs in the Americo-Columbian campaign to interdict narcotics from the Coca-rich fields of that Latin American country.There are marked similarities between our efforts against FARC (and certainly the simmering civil conflict between FARC and the current government) and our fight against millennial (something like Aum Shinrikiyo), fundamentalist (uh, al Qaeda) or political (McVeigh) terrorism. That is, absent actual battlefield combat, we can and should use the established criminal justice system to bring justice to those who commit terrorist crimes against us.Palmera was convicted. Can we say the same about anyone down at Gitmo? Can we say the same about Jose Padilla? What about Hamdi, the enemy combatant captured in the Taliban campaign and held as a military detainee without charge or trial in South Carolina? He’s free now in Saudi Arabia. Indeed, the only “guilty” Gitmo detainee—David Hicks—got nine months under a ridiculous, politically motivated plea deal.What’s the takeaway? The criminal justice system is equipped to adjudge even highly sensitive national security cases. If it needs added security measures, let’s do that. If it needs special federal procedure, let’s do that. But military justice is a necessary evil of the fog of war. That fog never really existed in the case of USA v. al-Qaeda. Let’s finally get the bad guys. And let’s do it our way—legitimately.

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