Every morning, Attorney General Michael Mukasey is handed a classified brief describing the latest terrorist threats to the United States. Mukasey, in his remarks to judges and lawyers assembled in Farmington, Pa. for the D.C. Circuit’s semi-annual Judicial Conference, said he thought he knew something about terrorism before taking over as the 81st attorney general. As a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, he presided over the case of “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman, which stemmed from the 1993 World Trade Center bombings and signed the arrest warrant for Jose Padilla, who was convicted last year of aiding terrorists.
But Mukasey didn’t know the half of it, he said, calling the daily reports “simultaneously sobering and alarming.” His experience as attorney general has only reinforced his opinion that the federal courts should have a limited role in the prosecution of terrorism suspects. He defended the Military Commissions, saying that public criticism was premature since, as yet, no suspected terrorist has been tried in one. Critics have cited this fact as an argument for the commissions’ inadequacy.
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