November 13th, 2009
01:07 PM ET
5 years ago

Administration critics slam civilian trials for 9/11 suspects

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Growing partisan tensions over national security issues exploded Friday as several top Republicans ripped Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to try five suspected 9/11 terrorists in civilian court.

The attorney general was accused of risking Americans' security by treating the suspects like "common criminals" with a right to greater
constitutional protections than they would otherwise receive in a military trial.

Five Guantanamo Bay detainees with alleged ties to the September 11, 2001, attacks - including confessed mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - will be tried in civilian court in New York, Holder announced Friday.

"These terrorists planned and executed the mass murder of thousands of innocent Americans. Treating them like common criminals is unconscionable," Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn said in a written statement.


"The attacks of September 11th were an act of war. Reverting to a pre-9/11 approach to fighting terrorism and bringing these dangerous
individuals onto U.S. soil needlessly compromises the safety of all Americans."
Cornyn asserted that Holder had irresponsibly put "political ideology ahead of the safety of the American people just to fulfill an ill-conceived campaign promise."

Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said the decision meant Mohammed and the other defendants would be able to claim new protections, including Miranda and Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

"Bringing terrorists to U.S. soil expands their constitutional rights and could result in shorter sentences," Smith claimed in a statement.

"America already gives terrorists more constitutional rights than any other country. The administration should not prioritize the rights of
terrorists over the rights of Americans to be safe and secure," he said.

Smith argued that trying suspected terrorists in military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is the "most appropriate venue and safest option for the American people."

He also said the public needed to be "reassured that no terrorist will ever be released into our communities."

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, agreed with Smith that suspected terrorists ought to be tried by military commissions.

"It is inconceivable that we would bring these alleged terrorists back to New York for trial, to the scene of the carnage they created eight years ago, and give them a platform to mock the suffering of their victims and the victims' families, and rally their followers to continue waging jihad against America," he said in a statement.

The September 11 terrorist "are war criminals, not common criminals," he argued. They are "not American citizens entitled to all the constitutional rights American citizens have in our federal courts."

Lieberman argued that the updated military commission system recently signed into law by Obama "provides standards of due process and fairness that fully comply with the requirements established by the Supreme Court and the Geneva Conventions."

Critics of military commissions, however, offered strong praise for Holder's decision. Anthony Romero, the head of American Civil Liberties Union, called it "a huge victory for restoring due process and the rule of law, as well as repairing America's international standing, an essential part of ensuring our national security."

Romero argued that it would "have been an enormous blow to American values if we had tried these defendants in a (military commission) process riddled with legal problems."

Trying the suspects at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility would have amounted to "a miscarriage of justice in sham proceedings," Romero said.

Romero criticized Holder's decision to try five other detainees - including Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the mastermind behind the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole - by military commission.

"Time and again the federal courts have proven themselves capable of handling terrorism cases while protecting both American values and sensitive national security information. Justice can only be served in our tried and true courts," Romero said.


Filed under: 9/11
soundoff (299 Responses)
  1. SocialismBad

    These animals were part of an organization that declared war on the United States. They were captured overseas. They are not American citizens. The military should try them and shoot them.

    Obama and the leftists are terrorist sympathizers. These killers will turn these trials into a farce. Of course, Obama and his flunkys will will be long gone because they are history in 2012 the way they are dragging us into a depression with their mismanagemnt of the economy and multi-trillion dollar spending sprees.

    November 13, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  2. JS007

    How many terrorists had Bush convicted? Two...that is right, just two small fish out of 700 detainees. If our jails are good enough for Charles Manson they are good enough for terrorists.

    November 13, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  3. Dave in Ohio

    As is the case with CNN, a major story regarding the detainees of 9/11 today but you find it necessary to lure people into your ticker page with a Sarah Palin headline. You people are obsessed.

    November 13, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  4. New Yorker

    This clearly proves that Obama and his gang are more concerned with the rights of terrorists than the rights of the American people. When will those who have the authority to impeach this president on grounds that he is not upholding his sworn duty to protect the citizens of this country take action?

    November 13, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  5. Idiot_Pelosi

    Where is Clint Eastwood when you need him?

    I'm still upset with OBOZO and his lap dog cronies, especially Eric (world free) Holder.

    November 13, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  6. Peter E

    Exactly what's the worry? If there is enough evidence to convict them in a military court, there is enough evidence to convict them in a civilian court. Trust the justice system! These people are guilty, and will be put away for the rest of their lives.

    November 13, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  7. victim of republican greed

    Why is it that the wingnuts have no faith in our constitution or our judicial system? Maybe it is because the majority of those who make up the republican culture of corruption have not been brought to trial either.

    November 13, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  8. Kevin in Ohio

    The sheer and utter stupidity of this administration has never ceased to amaze me. These terrorists are not "alleged" criminals that deserve even the slightest possibility of walking free...... and, of course, that is a possible outcome of these trials. If they do walk free, I hope they move next door to a bunch of left wing loons.

    November 13, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  9. Limbaugh is a liberal

    Our military has murdered thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq, and in other countries, and then dismissed it as 'collateral damage.' They were never tried in civilian court, much less a military court, neither in that country, or ours. Demanding trial without jury for anyone else just makes us hypocrites. It turns us into Iran, or North Korea.

    November 13, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  10. Tom in VA

    Is the GOP nuts? They disgree for the SOLE purpose of disagreeing.

    Bush had YEARS to bring these thugs to trial and his administration did NOTHING!

    Finally we have anadminstration that will bring justice these terrorists. Let the world watch as the Obabma administration brings them before a court of law.

    And let the GOP watch from the sidelines and poo-poo what they should have done a long time ago.

    November 13, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  11. Ken

    My goodness.....

    We live in America. We're supposed to have the best justice system in the world. Let it work and STOP fear-mongering. These so-called right-wing, constitutional, constructionist, hawks are the biggest bunch of sissy's our government has to offer!

    November 13, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  12. Really?!

    These terrorists hate everything about the U.S. and we're giving them the very consitutional rights and privileges that they abhor? The terrorists won't be on trial, but the Bush administration along with the intelligence community will be. Thanks Obama.

    November 13, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  13. BeckBaggingBirfer

    Nice to see Republicans admitting/believing that our judicial system is incapable of functioning. I guess from now on we should let the military handle all judicial matters. That should make things more "just" from the Republican point of view.

    November 13, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  14. jay

    Well, why not? This administration will stop at nothing to disgrace, defame, and humiliate any remnants of GW Bush. Why else would he be probing the CIA and FBi handling of terror suspects? Why else would he treat the Gitmo crew as criminals rather than war criminals? The left has doggedly wanted to charge Cheney, Bush, et al., as war criminals, yet the actual warriors against us are to be treated as common criminals. This is either a war, or it isn't. It can't be a war when you want to punish a President you don't like, and not one when the people who attacked us are up for trial.

    November 13, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  15. Bob in Pa

    Our civilian criminal courts system lets child molesters go with minimal punishment. They go back out an commit the same crimes, they cannot be rehabilitated
    Our courts have yet to learn this lesson.

    These terrorists are the same, they cannot be rehabilitated. They will never stop, it’s just how they have become programmed.

    November 13, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  16. victim of republican greed

    We need to convict these idiots, put them to death and move on.

    November 13, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  17. David, MA

    Risky Administration, no doubt.

    November 13, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  18. Seriously, Left

    If these TERRORISTS get acquitted on any technicalities, that will be the end of any hope that POTUS will get another term. I guarantee that many AMERICANS will be outraged at the president if this happens. Liberals, on the other hand, will just continue to blame Bush for it.

    November 13, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  19. victim of republican greed

    'Top Republican' is an oxymoron. The term is bottom 'feeders.'

    November 13, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  20. chelle

    Do Republicans talk just to hear the sound of their own voices? Guantanamo is considered American soil. They should have gone to trial years ago. If an American citizen had been treated this way by another nation there would have been outrage. Get over the rhetoric, send them to trial, if they are found guilty put them away for the rest of their lives. Pretty simple – why on earth bring up security? What threat are the terrorists that are in custody?

    November 13, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  21. Gorbashov - Long Beach, Ca.

    Pure politics by the Republican't Party!

    When are they going to put country first, and party second?

    Disgusting!!

    November 13, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  22. I only help people who arlready can hep themselves: GOP

    So these are the first terror suspects to be tried ever in a civilian court? No? Oh so what you're really saying is that these republicans are using this as a political tool?

    I wonder, would the victims of 9/11 feel good that these politicians are using murderers for their own political agenda?

    November 13, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  23. LacrosseDad

    when the terrorists come to New York is the time to transfer all of the community organizers czars to Gitmo plus Napolitano and Holder. We will be much safer.

    November 13, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  24. Swampdweller

    "Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said the decision meant Mohammed and the other defendants would be able to claim new protections, including Miranda and Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure."

    So?? Isn't that the way things are supposed to work in the American criminal justice system?

    If we use the yoked together military commssion form of dealing out justice, we do so at the risk of abandoning a cornerstone of American freedom.

    Freedom and security are widely divergent concepts - me, I'd rather live in a society that is free, even if it means being more exposed to danger.

    November 13, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  25. Ex-NC-Pub

    "These terrorists planned and executed the mass murder of thousands of innocent Americans. Treating them like common criminals is unconscionable," Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn said in a written statement.

    .... as did Timothy McVeigh and he got the death penalty. Whether you like it or not, Cornie... we are still governed by laws!

    November 13, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
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