First, although the new treaty certainly is aimed at catching and bringing to justice terrorists, that said, it is also aimed at child pornographers, robbers, narco-traffickers, those who commit corporate fraud, environmental offenders, money-launderers, and any other serious criminals. Nothing in this treaty limits its reach to terrorist offenses. Like other modern extradition treaties in force around the globe, it is explicitly a "dual criminality" treaty, covering only these crimes deemed serious by both nations.
Second, the United States does not require a heavy burden to be met by the U.K. in seeking extradition, even of U.S. nationals. The U.S. standard for extradition is, and always has been, probable cause -- a relatively low burden. Despite claims to the contrary, "probable cause" does not equal "prima facie" proof, which must be met by the government at a trial on the merits; it means reason to believe that a crime was probably committed and that the defendant probably committed it. That's all.
It's true that for extradition requests from the U.S. to the U.K., we once were held to a prima facie standard. But under current U.K. law, that standard has been eliminated for the U.S. and 20 other nations, including not only Australia and Canada , but also Albania and Azerbaijan , and we now have a more balanced extradition relationship.
Both the American and the British public should understand that neither nation has relinquished its sovereignty, that extradition cannot be accomplished on a whim, and that our governments are not intent on violating people's rights. Built into the treaty are several protections for extradition subjects, and these subjects have available to them avenues of appeal - often extremely lengthy ones - to the courts and the executive in both countries.
The American justice system also has been the subject of criticism, especially with regard to the plea negotiation system. In both of our countries, criminal defendants can voluntarily and knowingly plead guilty rather than go to trial. If this were not permitted, our systems could not work under the strain of the many trials that would occur.
Often, when presented with overwhelming evidence of guilt, a defendant will plead guilty in exchange for leniency. At times, that defendant also agrees to provide information or other cooperation -- cooperation that has saved lives and resulted in the recovery of assets stolen from innocent victims -- in exchange for a government recommendation as to the sentence.
Judges may choose whether to accept such recommendations, and defendants are not forced to enter into such agreements. The U.S. and the U.K. have mature, independent legal systems, in which a defendant can contest the government's evidence before an impartial judge or jury.
Beyond these issues related to public perception of the fairness of our legal systems, another challenge faced by our countries is how our legal systems can best deal with accused terrorists. As I mentioned earlier, we've worked closely on counter-terrorism prosecutions; but, as both our countries have recognized, we must continue to consider whether our current legal tools are sufficient to handle international terrorism, just as the world at large must consider whether the paradigm created in 1945 after World War II to prevent a recurrence of the evils that led to that war is suited to deal with the evils that generated the war in which we are now engaged.
Terrorism prosecutions and investigations are enormously different from other criminal cases, and the militants charged in those cases are significantly different from the run of the mill criminal defendant accused of a crime. They are not in it for the money, or to cheat or beat the system on this or that occasion; they are not in it to achieve a limited purpose or goal, the way ordinary criminals are; they are in it to subvert and eventually overthrow the system. Their goals are cosmic; their means are apocalyptic.
Both our countries have struggled with how best to deal with this problem, and we've taken somewhat different approaches. The United Kingdom has been thinking about and addressing these issues for longer than we have, and you have the benefit, if you can call it that, of having worked through some of the thornier problems.
The U.K. has been able to adapt police powers to deal with the terrorist threat, and update your laws as necessary to address new topics, such as weapons of mass destruction, aviation security, security of the nuclear industry, and security of pathogens and toxins.