November 13th, 2009
01:07 PM ET
9 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. chubby

    All this is for is a show for the demorats. After this administration's attorney general drops the ball on the trials maybe they could relocate them to new orleans or detroit where they would fit in.

    November 13, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  2. Jon

    As a New Yorker myself, not far from Groud Zero, I see nothing wrong with bringing these people to New York for trial. That's where the crime was committeed. I fail to see how this brings any security risks to the city. You can rest assured that that there will be ample security at the court house.
    As I travel the country, people sometimes ask me if the city is back to normal yet. Well I don't think we ever lost our cool. Some of the most cringe-inducing reactions to 9/11 seem to come from elsewhere.
    Let's show the world that we have a constitutional system that works.
    The terrorists will get their day in court and then they will get what they deserve.

    November 13, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  3. Nevada dude

    Bring them to JUSTICE in an Amercian court, so the world can see that America has returned to its core principles. try them in a military tribunal outside of the country as Republicans would want, and we will forever be branded as being no better than the Soviets.

    I find Republican objection to these terrorists' trials so incomprehensible, considering that the GOP continues to accuse the President of being a socialist.

    November 13, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  4. Connie, Indiana

    Never let a decision of this administration go by without the republicans going on about "national security". Jesus these guys need to give it a rest, anything that comes out of the white house is fodder for the right to get their panties ina knot.. If they put as much effort into helping solve the problems of this country instead of hammering the administration they would be doing something..Typical republicans...

    November 13, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  5. larry

    Man you lefties are hopeless.
    You actually think these people have rights, your not americans. Americans hold up for americans. We will weed you out and hopefully you move to another country where you "think" is better. But back off our country. It is ours and we will get it back.
    Your all so brain washed that it's allowing your children to fail in the future.

    November 13, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  6. Connie, Indiana

    didn't seem to bother the republicans for the past 7 yrs or so..why didn't they push Bush to take them to trial!!!! Oh that is right they were too busy screwing the American people to be concerned about they scream, give me a break.

    November 13, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  7. NickD

    Did you people honestly read the article? CNN seems to be crammed full of liberals who have nothing but in abating love for everything their wonderful new president does. Given how Obama has made it his mission to expose the CIA and gotten the absurd ACLU into a frenzy do none of the people who support this notion not see the very real possibility that these people could potentially go free? these cases have not been investigated as civilian cases and now that evidence will be subject to civillian court terms under which most of it will not be admissable.

    For all of those who like to point out that Timothy McVeigh was successfully tried and executed are ignoring the fact that the case was investigated in the US, by the FBI, through traditional means and so that evidence was naturally admissable. The evidence for these terrorists was gathered from around the world using some untraditional methodologies from a civilian court perspective. It's like someone changing the rules of a football game in the 4th quarter so that what seemed like a touchdown (slam dunk evidence) is no longer so.

    Obama, while a very bright man, seems to put abstract priniciple ahead of pracicality all to often and as such is ruining your country in my opinion. All he seems to care about are political points and the liberal base seems to have this ideology where a bad idea is better then the status quo. just because something needs work (healthcare, climate, these cases, the economy) doesn't mean that a solution needs to be rushed through in line with a political schedule. As the old saying goes 'Rome wasn't built in a day" and I feel the democratic leadership needs to pump the brakes and act prudently rather then rushing for the sake of their own careers interests.

    Conservative from Canada

    November 13, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  8. JonDie


    a) don't want their own crimes discussed in open court;

    b) don't want the fact that 9-11 happened on their watch discussed in open court;

    c) don't think the American judicial system that has served us well for more than 200 years is able to protect us; and

    d) generally consider our system of government to be detrimental to THEIR economic interests.

    November 13, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  9. seebofubar

    McVeigh was an American citizen and had rights under the Constitution, these scumbags are not citizens and do not enjoy the same rights.

    November 13, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  10. Dan Holiday

    Oh, by the way...Timothy McVeigh was a domestic terrorist, not a foriegn terrorist. He was captured by the Police, not the military. And he was a U.S. citizen, not a foreign born citizen. See how that works morons? That is why he was tried in a "domestic, civilian court". Liberals are so stupid.

    November 13, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  11. Dan Holiday

    Oh, by the way...Timothy McVeigh was a domestic terrorist, not a foreign terrorist. He was captured by the Police, not the military. And he was a U.S. citizen, not a foreign born citizen. See how that works morons? That is why he was tried in a "domestic, civilian court". Liberals are so stupid.

    November 13, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  12. JJ

    @ Connie
    McVeigh was a terrorist and he was tried in an American Court.

    Comments like this really scare be because of the plain stupidity of some in this country. Ane even worse, we let them vote....

    November 13, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  13. Mr. Bob

    Uh, how many former Guantanamo detainees were actually released without having ANY charges formally placed against them?

    For all of you fascist-leaning Highlander types, remeber that you live in a country based on democratic principles. All of these detainees are "alleged" criminals/terrorists until they are convicted.

    If there is so much evidence against them to justify holding them for 6, 7, even 8 years without trials, what are you so worried about? Be it a military or civilian court, they're either getting life w/o parole or the death penalty.

    Seriously, you mega-cons are starting to sound like little paranoid Glenn Beck clones.

    And fascists.

    November 13, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  14. Nini

    Every step they take makes us less safe.

    This AG has always been on the wrong side.

    November 13, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  15. Tommygunn


    AMERICA is not made up of SCARDY CATS that are AFRAID of their OWN JUDICIAL SYSTEM. This TERRIORIST will get sentence in all the courts US-INTL-GODs.

    What do the GOP really GOT TO BE SCARED AMERICANs we know JUSTICE WILL BE SERVED.....Now it's time for our ALLIES to set their sites on our stature once more......

    November 13, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  16. Reaganomics Leads To Feudalism

    "Administration critics slam civilian trials for 9/11 suspects."

    I've got news for you...admistration critics slam President Obama for EVERYTHING he does.

    It's a good thing there aren't hidden camaras in the White House restrooms. If there were, administation critics would be slaming President Obama for wiping with the "wrong hand" and using the "wrong technique" while doing it.

    November 13, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  17. Kai in ATL

    I'm confused as to why there is so much adverse feelings towards having the trial in NY. Jeffrey Dahmer was judged by a jury of his "peers". Furthermore, what better measure of justice than to have a jury of New Yorkers convict such criminals? It may be hard to stomach but (even in this case) in America, you are innocent until proven guilty. To simply hang them in Guantanamo would be a step backward to all humanity. This was a civilian crime and should be treated as such. I'm sure this was not an easy decision for our President. Let's give him the respect he deserves. Whatever happened to those who said that as Americans we should support our president? What's changed since then?

    November 13, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  18. Patriot


    "Blah Blah Blah...Obama's a socialist...blah, blah, blah...Obama is making us less safe....blah, blah, blah...Obama is a fascist...blah, blah, blah....Obama's a Kenyan....blah, blah, blah, ....Obama's a racist....blah, blah, blah....

    Someone press stop....PLEASE! The

    The Repugs are increasingly making fools of themselves and making themselves more and more irrelevant. Try having a constructive idea rather than a destructive routine.....

    November 13, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |

    The utter stupidity of obama knows no bounds. they do not deserve a jury trial. they should be dead already. they are gonna recruit in our prisons and its open season on NYC. W need a new government now!! this administration are either idiots or in bed with these guys.

    November 13, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  20. donttreadonme

    This does bring security into question. I am glad I don't live in New York! It is a whole other ball game to try these guys in the public eye.

    They will try to disrupt this process.

    November 13, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  21. dieselbug

    You wanted to try the Pan-Am bomber in America under civil judicial system – was that not a criminal act? The Oklahoma City bombers – terrorists – were tried and convicted in a federal court. Make up your freaking mind!
    If you want military court to oversee the cases then you will see the exact same thing done by our enemies. Their idea of a military court is execution. Hold the USA to the higher standard you claim it has and try these people as criminals in federal court.

    November 13, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  22. Lori, Houston Texas

    Dear Concerned,

    We were attacked on 9/11/2001 – that was ON Bush's watch. Remember the August 2001 PDB titled "Osama bin laden determined to strike in the US"? Had Bush taken action, 9/11 may have never happened.

    Try to remember the facts before you post and, if you can't, try Google.

    November 13, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  23. donttreadonme

    dems are too weak when it comes to National Defense!

    November 13, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  24. Donna from Colorado Springs

    Why shouldn't the trials be held where these miserable criminals caused such death and destruction? The critics of this plan simply want to complain about EVERYTHING the Obama administration says or matter what! I'm sick to death of these whining morons who trash everything that the president is trying to do. What they have said and done in the name of freedom of speech never would have been tolerated when Bush was president.......but then he was a white republican who could do no wrong.....wasn't he?

    November 13, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  25. Justsayin

    My President is a coward, what a shame he had to run to Asia while they announced these trials. I am ashamed.

    November 13, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
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