The Obama administration is touting the guilty plea of terrorist Najibullah Zazi as validation of its use of the criminal justice system in these matters. Zazi (no relation to Joey Zaza) was an airport shuttle bus driver who plotted to detonate explosives in the New York subway system. He has pleaded guillty for his role in the plot and reportedly is cooperating with authorities.
Attorney General Holder spoke about the plea at a news conference. He said that “in this case, as it has in so many other cases, the criminal justice system has proved to be an invaluable weapon for disrupting plots and incapacitating terrorists, one that works well in concert with the intelligence community and our military.”
I don’t know enough about Zazi’s case to have a position on whether the administration made the correct call in placing Zazi, a legal resident of the U.S. but not a citizen, into the criminal justice system. However, Holder’s claim that the criminal justice proved to be “an invaluable weapon” is true only if the military justice system would not have produced the same result.
The administration says that Zazi “began to accelerate his cooperation after authorities charged his Afghan-born father with crimes and threatened to charge his mother with immigration offenses — options that are not available in the military justice system .” But, unless I’m missing something, we could have harassed Zazi’s father and mother through the criminal justice system even as we interrogated Zazi in the military system. Presumably, harassment of his parents would have placed the same pressure on Zazi regardless of which system he himself was in.
Again, I’m not saying it was a mistake to put Zazi in the criminal justice system, only that Holder has failed to make the case that doing so yielded better results than alternative approaches would have.
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