The Obama administration opens the manacles of the US criminal justice system and accomplishes something the Bush administration couldn't do by wiping its feet on the US constitution.
"Without a doubt, this case is a grim reminder of the seriousness of the threat we as a nation still face," Attorney-General Eric Holder said in a statement.And then listen to Rachel Maddow as she underlines the most significant point of Ali al-Marri's criminal prosecution. (Once the obnoxious little ad is over slide forward to minute 7)
"But it also reflects what we can achieve when we have faith in our criminal justice system and are unwavering in our commitment to the values upon which the nation was founded, and the rule of law."
Ali al-Marri, who was the last remaining "enemy combatant" held on US soil, faces a maximum of 15 years in jail after admitting he conspired to provide material support to al-Qa'ida. He will be sentenced on July 30. It was not clear how much credit he would be given for time already served.
"He asked for his day in court, and he got his day in court with all the constitutional protections," Marri's lawyer, Jonathan Hafetz, said. "It's all he wanted."
As Michael Isikoff points out, the guilty plea of Ali al-Marri opens the doors for other prosecutions, not through the Bush/Cheney manufactured military commissions, but within the criminal justice system; Not with dubious confessions obtained through torture, but from the testimony of eyewitnesses.
While the volume keeps getting cranked up in some quarters demanding that Obama prosecute members of the Bush administration for knowingly and intentionally engaging in illegal acts, (not to mention immoral at a hundred different levels), everyone needs to be aware that it's probably far too early to go wading in that pool.
Obama is no idiot. As the memos continue to be released and the facts continue to accumulate, Obama will continue to hold off until such a time as the evidence is overwhelming, any defence would be ineffective, and screeching remnants of the Bush cargo culture (Limbaugh, Malkin, et al) have so completely impeached themselves that the demand for prosecution of Bush administration principals will suit both the popular need for cleansing and occur in a favourable political climate.
There will be prosecutions. Just, not now. They will happen when the current cheerleaders of those who perpetrated crimes have no audience, and instead of energetically defending their Bush/Cheney heros they are forced to hang their heads and mutter in their own defence, "We didn't know."