By Elaine Cassel
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Additional resources for The War on Civil Liberties: How Bush and Ashcroft Have Dismantled the Bill of Rights
S. court. Indeed, that is why the government chose to charge Moussaoui in Alexandria, rather than cage him in a military brig in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, label him an enemy combatant, and forget about him or try him in secret before a military tribunal and then execute him. After all, the government later locked up Yaser Hamdi and Jose Padilla as enemy combatants, and they were American citizens. So why put Moussaoui, a French citizen, on trial in Alexandria? No one can say for sure, but a good guess is that Ashcroft had banked on getting a judge in the conservative Eastern District of Virginia to run the trial his way.
Prosecutors argued that making the witnesses available would interfere with the government’s interrogation of the witnesses for intelligence purposes. The defense attorneys wanted the case dismissed because, they argued, they needed the witnesses to exculpate Moussaoui, in whole or in THE WAR IN THE COURTS 35 part, of being complicit in September 11—the major thrust of the government’s case against him. They argued, and Judge Brinkema agreed, that Moussaoui has a right under the Sixth Amendment to call witnesses in his defense.
The Moussaoui case was not the first terrorist trial in Alexandria, Virginia, home of the “rocket docket” (a euphemism for the speed with which cases are tried or otherwise resolved). Nor would it be the last. Bracketing the Moussaoui case was the first trial of an American for alleged terrorism activities post–September 11, THE WAR IN THE COURTS 37 that of the so-called American “Taliban” John Walker Lindh, and a collection of cases against the “Alexandria Eleven,” a supposed terrorist cell working in the backyard of the federal court.