The High Cost of Misunderstanding Terrorism

The Obama administration will include $200 million in next year’s budget to help defray the security costs resulting from the criminal trials of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his fellow 9/11 terrorists. This is infuriating, of course: why should the taxpayers have to foot that expense?
But it is also illuminating. Why, exactly, will these trials require $200 million worth of extra security? Aren’t Khalid and his pals ordinary criminals? Even trying John Gotti didn’t shut down Manhattan. The reason why such extraordinary security will be necessary is that the 9/11 plotters are not merely criminals. They are combatants in a war against the United States; it is their fellow combatants who are still in the field who pose such a risk that extraordinary measures are necessary. The $200 million is by no means the biggest price we will pay for the Obama administration’s mistake, but in itself it confirms how misguided the administration’s criminal justice approach to terrorism is.