The bomber who terrorized New York City and New Jersey is in custody – what now?

terroristSo, the alleged New York City and New Jersey bombing suspect, who shall remain nameless lest this contribute to the notoriety he sought, has been captured – now what? What will become of him and when will it happen? My guess is the answers are not much and not anytime soon.

Instead, how soon before we see him on the cover of Rolling Stone like we did the surviving Boston Marathon bomber?  After all, granting him semi-rock star status is what our popular culture does with sociopaths these days.

But it hasn’t always been this way. Once upon a time in America, degenerate cretins such as this were dealt with swiftly, harshly and finally. And it was a Democratic president, a Democratic attorney general and a mostly Democratic United States Supreme Court that got the job done.

On June 13 and June 16, 1942, two German U-boats offloaded a total of eight men, four on Long Island and four near Ponte Vedra Beach, Fl. The eight had been specially trained as saboteurs and had orders to do their best to disrupt the American war effort and otherwise wreck as much havoc as possible. All eight were German-born but had lived in various parts of the United States for extended periods, returning to Germany between `1933 and 1941.

The eight men were Ernest Peter BurgerGeorge John DaschHerbert Hans HauptHeinrich HeinckEdward KerlingHerman NeubauerRichard Quirin and Werner Thiel. Burger and Haupt were U.S. citizens.

Their extensive training and orders by the German High Command, however, went for naught since almost immediately the operation disintegrated into chaos and an every-man-for-himself anarchy. Two of the purported saboteurs, Burger and Dasch, immediately surrendered to the FBI. In relatively short order, the other six were apprehended in whatever portion of the Eastern United States they had scattered.

Richard Quirin
Richard Quirin

What now? On July 2, 1942, before you could say “New Deal,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Proclamation 2561 denying the eight access to U.S. civilian courts and providing that they be tried before a military tribunal because of the nature of their warlike acts against the United States.

The Order provided that “all persons who are subjects, citizens, or residents of any Nation at war with the United States” who enter the country to “commit sabotage, espionage, hostile or warlike acts, or violations of the law or war, shall be subject to the law of war and to the jurisdiction of military tribunals; and that such persons shall not be privileged to seek any remedy or maintain any proceeding, directly or indirectly, or to have any such remedy or proceeding sought on their behalf, in the courts of the United States…”

In other words, if you’re here to blow stuff up in a manner contrary to the rules of war – among other things, not wearing uniforms – and you’re caught, then it’s military justice for you.

Moving right along, a trial was held from July 8 to August 1, 1942 at the Justice Department Building in Washington, D.C. The tribunal deliberated for two days before finding the eight guilty and sentencing them to death. (President Roosevelt commuted the sentences of Burger and Dasch because they had cooperated with the FBI).

A panoply of legal and constitutional issues were raised on appeal and argued before the United States Supreme Court on July 29-30, 1942, with the court deciding to uphold President Roosevelt’s authority as commander in chief to issue the proclamation calling for the tribunals. A formal written opinion wasn’t issued until October 29, 1942.

On August 8, the six whose sentences had not been commuted were executed in the electric chair at the Washington, D.C. Jail. Their bodies were buried in Potters’ Field straight away. Quite literally, it was “sine die.”

In all, the whole process took but 56 days, a mere eight weeks from when the first four landed on U.S. soil to when their lights were fully, finally and eternally turned out.

Nobody can claim that justice was delayed even though some have argued back and forth over the decades that justice was denied. Supreme Court decisions dating from the Civil War holding that civilians cannot be denied access to the civil courts during wartime if they’re still open weren’t controlling, said a unanimous court in a per curiam (a unanimous, unsigned opinion not attributable to any particular justice) opinion.

lady justicePresidents are empowered by the Constitution to wage war, and military tribunals to adjudicate the status of unlawful combatants – read: spies and saboteurs – are a suitable part of that process.

What strikes me as unique about the opinion and process in what has come to be known as Ex parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1 (1942), is that it was done with dispatch – when the government sets its mind to doing something, it can get it done post haste.

I wonder how many saboteurs in training back in Germany counted ahead 56 days and then thought better of their upcoming mission.

When it came to waging war, FDR and crew made no bones about it. They knew what needed to be done, and they proceeded to do it as expeditiously as possible. Taking their cue from what Henry V said (according to William Shakespeare) prior to the famous Battle of Agincourt, “All things are ready if our minds be so,” their minds were ready, and they didn’t hesitate.

But today, that level of leadership is woefully absent. Instead of acting without delay, the government delays without acting. Under the” leadership” of President Obama the phrase “lead from behind” has taken on an entirely new definition of tardiness.  Calling our efforts against ISIS “a war of narratives,” whatever that means, is an excuse to talk about doing something rather than actually doing something.

When FDR said we have nothing to fear but fear itself, it’s obvious he’d never met Barack Obama who is maybe the most fearful nothing in U.S. history.

Of course, calls to be aggressive against people like the bomber and organizations and “states” who motivate and inspire him are met with shock and horror. Heaven forbid that we actually do something to retaliate against what are obvious attacks against the United States since it might make people who hate us and want us destroyed hate us and want us destroyed. Trying to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony hasn’t worked out so well, has it?

In the meantime, while we’re shilly-shallying in an effort to avoid actually doing something, some pretty nasty characters sit in jail cells laughing at us for being afraid to act against them. Who’s got whom by the short hairs?

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