The pursuit of justice in the United States ma have entered a new era this week when President Bush designated six, unnamed, suspected operatives for al-Qaeda as possible subjects for prosecution in military commissions.

The six, whose judicial fate has not been decided, would be tried as enemy combatants even though they do not fit the usual description of soldiers. It is uncertain that they fight with official connection for any specific country.

Informed observers of the situation told The Washington Post the Pentagon has placed the rulebook for military commissions into the Federal Register. That suggests a kind of permanence for the commissions, structured after the September 11 attacks.

A great hue and cry rose from civil libertarians after hundreds of suspected terrorists were jailed indefinitely at the Gauntanamo Bay Navy Station in Cuba. Concern is justified as it relates to guaranteeing basic rights for all prisoners in U.S. custody. However, the new kind of threat that exploded with the terrorists' deeds falls outside previous catastrophic attacks on the United States and/or its citizens.

The careful deliberates with which the Bush administration has moved demonstrates both restraint and determination to make the process legal and effective. Experts will and should argue the precise constitutional implications. Argument, however, doesn't necessarily mean new methods should not be used in reaching just conclusions to any charges and indictments formally invoked.

Military commissions last were used against the leaders of Germany and Japan after World War II. Many were rightfully convicted of war crimes.

There's very limited argument that the principal suspects aren't guilty, but it must be proven. The scope of terrorism conspiracies against the U.S. is huge by all accounts.

Conclusions won't be reached in the prosecution of cases without going to court. Anything less equals anarchy, and that is not how the United States operates.

To join an online discussion of this topic, log on to, or respond at for publication as a letter to the editor.

Recommended for you

comments powered by Disqus