The administration believes these are mere criminals, not international terrorists. It believes the terrorists are deserving of the most cherished constitutional protections that are an American birthright.
And, most naively, the administration seems to think that affording these terrorists the comfort and rights and soapbox of a U.S. criminal defendant will endear the country to others around the world.
This is, in short, a show trial - and not in any conventional sense. It's an attempt by the Obama administration to show the world how sweet and tolerant we can be, even with the world's worst mass murderers and terrorists.
It's a horrendously dangerous ploy. Mr. Obama is playing with dynamite in the hopes it will make others like him more.
It will give the terrorists as-of-yet undetermined access to valuable and sensitive national security intelligence. It will give the terrorists an American pedestal from which to spew anti-American propaganda and embolden their comrades around the world. And it risks the very real possibility that the defendants - including 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - will be acquitted.
Remember: They thought they had O.J. Simpson dead to rights. Never underestimate the uncertainty of an American courtroom.
If anything, this show trial will likely showcase the circus atmosphere that envelops many American courtrooms that are twisted into unrecognizable contortions by wily defense attorneys and gullible judges.
"It's a risky move," admits the Associated Press. "Trying the men in civilian court will bar evidence obtained under duress ..."
You have to wonder if the decision was, in part, a rebuke of the Bush administration's prosecution of the war on terror - a statement that, hey, if the Bush folks didn't "gather evidence" properly enough for a U.S. courtroom, then it's their fault.
In that light, the Obama administration may want to use this trial as an indictment of the Bush administration as much as a test of the suspects' guilt.
"The case is likely to force the federal court to confront a host of difficult issues," writes the Associated Press' David B. Caruso, "including rough treatment of detainees (and) sensitive intelligence gathering ..."
It's no secret liberals look on much of the evidence against Mohammed with utter contempt - as "tainted," having come with some amount of coercion the type of which you don't normally see on prime time television programs.
Nor is it any secret that many, including some currently in the halls of power, would love for Bush administration officials to be on trial alongside Mohammed. The next best thing, of course, is to put on a trial that throws out the Bush approach as inadmissible in a court of law.
In truth, the evidence against Mr. Mohammed is tainted only by a high-priced New York defense attorney's standards. That's not the kind of standard we need to bring to the war against an enemy who would just as soon kill us as look at us.
"The plan seems to abandon the view that we are involved in a war," says former Attorney General Michael Mukasey.
Mukasey's view should carry some weight: He was the judge for the trial after the 1993 World Trade Center terrorist attack.
"Although the defendants were convicted," writes The Wall Street Journal, "Mr. Mukasey has said the experience persuaded him that federal courts were not equipped to handle sensitive terrorism trials."
This decision is an abomination, and a most dangerous and regrettable precedent. Even if convictions are secured, they will come at great damage to our security and our ability to fight terrorists around the world.
The administration's decision to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and transfer terror suspects to U.S. prisons - which still keeps them detained without a trial, but apparently looks good to the world - is another move that indicates Obama, to paraphrase Billy Crystal's Saturday Night Live character, thinks it's better to look good than to be safe.
We vigorously disagree.