Will Obama's KSM policy destroy U.S. credibility and boost terrorist recruitment? 

President Obama is reportedly near a decision on the future of September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The options are: 1) Trying KSM in civilian court in the United States; 2) Trying him before a military tribunal in Guantanamo; and 3) Holding him in indefinite detention at Guantanamo.

Option 1 is not possible because of widespread, bipartisan opposition to bringing KSM to the United States. Option 2 is not possible because it would "alienate [Obama's] liberal supporters," according to the Washington Post, and perhaps just as important, force Obama to admit his previous policy was wrong. So it looks like Option 3 will be the administration's choice, because it does not require Obama to do anything.

The only consequences of keeping KSM in indefinite detention would be -- if one takes Obama's 2008 campaign statements literally -- to undermine the Constitution, destroy U.S. credibility around the world, and deliver a boost to terrorist recruitment.

In June 2008, candidate Obama exchanged criticisms with Sen. John McCain over the war on terrorism. "It is my firm belief that we can track terrorists, we can crack down on threats against the United States, but we can do so within the constraints of our Constitution," Obama told ABC's Jake Tapper. "Let's take the example of Guantanamo. What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks -- for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated."

Obama continued:

And the fact that the administration has not tried to do that has created a situation where not only have we never actually put many of these folks on trial, but we have destroyed our credibility when it comes to rule of law all around the world, and given a huge boost to terrorist recruitment in countries that say, "Look, this is how the United States treats Muslims."

And now we have a situation in which Obama, after nearly two years as commander-in-chief, is reportedly planning to continue the indefinite detention of KSM -- no charges, no trial. The obvious choice would be to try KSM by military tribunal at Gitmo, but that would alienate liberal supporters. So Obama is ready to approve a policy choice that he said would destroy American credibility and boost terrorist recruitment in the Muslim world. Is that what his supporters really want?

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Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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