The Bush administration's insistence on trying terrorism suspects in military rather than civilian courts has put it on a path to a legal minefield. The move can only damage one of the nation's most internationally admired institutions - its system of justice. Why President George W. Bush is intent on harming a cornerstone of American democracy is beyond understanding. True, the aftermath of September 11 has meant that certain extreme actions must be taken, but such legal measures are unnecessary and will foster only suspicion and hatred, not the security that is so needed. Last month, Mr Bush signed an executive order allowing the creation of the military tribunals to prosecute 'non-citizens'. The administration's decision was taken to prevent suspected terrorists from exploiting America's legal protections. Provisions allow for the tribunals to be held outside the US and even aboard US-flagged ships - in effect far from the public gaze and scrutiny that domestic courts afford. Rights groups, legislators and lawyers are justifiably outraged - but their warnings have fallen on deaf ears. Mr Bush on Thursday reaffirmed his stand on the tribunals and received backing from members of his team, including Vice-President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell. Post-World War II military tribunals at Nuremberg and Tokyo - while on a far bigger scale than those planned by the Bush administration - were seen as biased and the judgments unfair by many of the convicted and their relatives and countrymen. The critics' argument was that the wartime victors, the allies, were trying their opponents in debatable circumstances. A similar situation will occur under Mr Bush's initiative and it can be assumed that judgments that are open to question will ensue. With Middle Eastern men comprising the majority of the hundreds rounded up for questioning in the wake of the attacks in New York and Washington, it can be assumed the bulk of cases handled by the military tribunals will deal with Muslims - which is sure to further fuel the controversy. US civilian courts have been tried and tested countless times in cases involving terrorists. The system was not questioned or found wanting when political assassins appeared before its judges, or when the trials of Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh, the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing suspects or those involved in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Africa stood trial. There is no doubt that Mr Bush and his team need to rethink their strategy.