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Finally! Terror Trials That Might Work

Can it be that they are finally going to get it right? The Washington Post this morning reports that the Obama Administration is going to re-start military commissions to process and prosecute many of the remaining terror detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Here's the nut graph from the piece by the Post's Peter Finn:

"The rules would block the use of evidence obtained from coercive interrogations, tighten the admissibility of hearsay testimony and allow detainees greater freedom to choose their attorneys, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly."
If this is true, we may finally see productive military trials for terrorists like Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh, two of the main planners of the terror attacks upon America.

The Bush Administration was unable to convict the men via military trials because officials were unwilling to give the detainees much in the way of fair trial rights (like the ones identified above). It was a penny-wise, pound-foolish argument that now, thankfully, appears to have been replaced with a constructive, practical approach to the defendants.

The timing of the leak is curious, too. It comes just as Republican operatives were beginning a national advertising campaign of fear about terror detainees roaming around the American countryside.

That was never going to happen anyway, but if the White House is willing to give the detainees more rights the trials (and possible convictions) of those detainees are much more likely to get endorsed on appeal by our federal courts. And that, of course, is the idea.

Andrew Cohen is CBS News' Chief Legal Analyst and Legal Editor. CourtWatch is his new blog with analysis and commentary on breaking legal news and events. For columns on legal issues before the beginning of this blog, click here.