November 13th, 2009
01:07 PM ET
8 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)

    did tryin those ragheads from the first bombing stop the second attack from happening? no it sure didnt. this is no time for soft amateur liberals. you dont have the toughness we conservatives have. so you libs just stay at homee with the women and children and let the men handle this.

    November 13, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  2. nsmith

    Pretty clearly shows who has faith in the American way and who doesn't. Also shows who supports the Constitution and who doesn't. The Founding Fathers never once said that the right to a trial applied only to citizens- do you think they were fools and traitors? The system worked for the conservative terrorist McVey, and it will work for these terrorists too. Don't listen to the fearmongers trying to scare us into abandoning our 200+ years tradition of justice.

    November 13, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  3. New Yorker

    Connie – McVeigh was a citizen of the U.S. these other terrorists are not. Obama and his cronies are "citizens of the world" that's how they justify their foolish decisions.

    November 13, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  4. EM

    Wait, they still haven't gone to trial? So basically for the past 8 years my tax dollars have been going to support them? Who do i speak to about this? Oh wait, he isn't in office anymore and his party is now the minority. So now that the ruling party is going to take action, they want to whine and complain for their own failure to take action.

    November 13, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  5. Mark

    The most stupid left wing liberal move to date.

    November 13, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  6. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    Truth-Bomb Thrower Wrote:
    "So these scumbags who likely participated in the murder of almost two thousand innocent american civilians within our own borders are entitled to the same consitutional rights as you and I?

    HAS OUR GOVERNMENT GONE TOTALLY INSANE?! Does american citizenship mean ANYTHING anymore?!"

    The key word in your statement is "LIKELY." FIRST, PROVE that they committed these acts, then, cut them into 100,000 tiny pieces, keeping them alive while you do it, if you like. THEN, I don't care.
    Since you DID say likely, that raises the question: "What if they were not involved? Kill them anyway? If THAT is how we are going to act, then what? Drag their naked beheaded bodies through the streets, then hang them up on a bridge somewhere and set them on fire? If were going to do THAT, why would you bother with the pretense of seeking justice, just do it and forget whatever values you have as a society.

    Our Founding Fathers set up the Constitution this way. If you commit a crime (and it makes no distinction as to level of horrific-ness) then youy should be tried IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE U.S. CONSTITUTION! YES!!!
    Citizenship doesn't buy you anything in a court of law... We (ALL) get the presumption of innocence.
    The "CRAZY" people are the ones willing to abandon everything that makes our Country the BEST to achieve vengeance, even if it against innocents. Remember this word, YOUR word: likely

    November 13, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  7. victim of democrat hypocrisy

    So the guy who planned the 9/11 attacks could conceivably walk the streets of NYC free as a bird if some scumbag lawyer gets the evidence against him thrown out.

    This is what happens when you elect politicians who coddle terrorists instead of fight them!

    November 13, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  8. ThinkAgain

    What's "unconscionable" is convicting people without a trial!

    And what's so dangerous about bringing a five men onto American soil? How does that endanger "all Americans"?

    Jeez, Cronyn, you are one whiny, wuss if you think that our military and civilian security forces won't be able to protect us from these five men.

    You apparently have no confidence in our justice system, either.

    Typical Republican, saying and doing anything to slam our President. You GOPers should be so ashamed of yourselves, the way you kneejerk react to everything, flying into hysterics at the drop of a hat.


    November 13, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  9. Cleveland Marine

    "limbaugh is a liberal" you ar the biggest moron I've ever seen on this board... if it were not for the military you wouldn't be able to spew your garbage on here. these animals are NOT americans. they don't get our rights. they are enemy combatants. they should be tried and hung or killed by firing squad.

    November 13, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  10. Billy J..Texas..

    I am glad they are going to be tried where the crime was committed. I would love to see what happens to these guys when they step into the prison yard or some place like rikers. Believe me, the black brothers of the nation of islam will not be watching these guys backs. They will be dead in days.

    On a side note....

    If Obama walked on water, the Republicans would say 'See! He can't swim!"

    November 13, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  11. ThinkAgain

    President Obama, unlike the previous occupant of the White House, believes in the rule of law. Prosecuting these five men for the crimes they are accused of is the right thing to do.

    That's not sympathy for terrorists; that's called upholding the Constitution.

    To all you kneejerk reactionaries out there who just want to take the accused out and "shoot them," I say you need to read up on our nation's history, including who wrote our Constitution and why.

    And while you're at it, grow the heck up!

    November 13, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  12. BobAbrams

    All of these bloggers are comparing these guys to Jeffrey Dahmer and other criminals...there's one thing I guess you guys don't understand....he was an AMERICAN CITIZEN you freaking idiots. Like seriously, while we're at it, let's compare these terrorist to Michael Jackson's doctor, or heck, even Ted Kennedy for killing that girl in the lake...they're ALL the same right???

    November 13, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  13. ThinkAgain

    Bush didn't try to prosecute these men because he didn't want justice for the victims of 9/11 – he just wanted to use them as a way to push for tax cuts for the wealthy, while spending trillions on two wars for the sake of oil and to line the pockets of his military-industrial buddies.

    Wake up, folks – and quit being so lazy when it comes to thinking logically and letting yourselves be jerked around by the GOP!

    November 13, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  14. Cleveland Marine

    you libs are unbeliveable, how can you stoop so low as to say these animals have the same rights as you and I. Enemy combatants are not protected by our constitution. the pussification of America is is why you all think this way.

    November 13, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  15. Vietnam Combat Veteran, Ohio

    Holder? What a waste of skin. A man with no balls. Military trials for the enemy!!

    November 13, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  16. Mickey

    Of course they criticize...they know NOTHING ELSE!

    November 13, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  17. Chuck Anaheim, Ca

    So most of you on here would support Roland Freisler as judge in this trial? What good does it do to have a Constitution and laws? This is so strange that the people of this country dont want to follow what was set down in law over 200 years ago and has worked since then.

    November 13, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  18. joec

    Politics has sunk to a new low in recent years and sinks even lower when the GOP mouthpieces launch yet another cheap attack on an administration that is working hard to put right the mess left by GWB. As for the illiterate wing-nuts who seem unable to even spell correctly or string together a sentence, those of us who are still capable of thinking for ourselves and reaching reasonable conclusioins can clearly see them for what they are. God help us all if these nutjobs ever succeed at their drive to topple the government.

    November 13, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  19. Melissa

    I really doubt its just critics of this administration that have a problem with this. I support this administration wholeheartedly but still think this is a dumb idea. This idiotic crap doesn't reflect on President Obama though, unless you're an idiot, it reflects on the Attorney General.

    November 13, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  20. Biased

    If democrats want this trial in New York so much, are you willing to put up the funds for their lawyers, security and everything else since you are so hoping you can try Bush and Cheney in absentia at the same time? This has nothing to do with the rule of law or you would have all been up in arms when Holder and Obama petitioned the court to keep these Gitmo prisoners as "non persons". So how can a "non person" be given a "non trial"? Let us know when you figure it out. Or under law do these non persons really exist?

    November 13, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  21. Proud Member..Party of No

    This administration is toppling all sorts of records that I never in my wildest nightmares ever thought would be topped including Worst President Ever with Barry Obama knocking Jimmy Carter out of that spot and Eric Holder now besting Janet Reno as Worst Attorney General Ever.

    November 13, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  22. ThinkAgain

    Boy, I am sick and tired of all the garbage people post here about how our President is in sympathy with the terrorists, should be impeached, that he's a traitor ...

    All you guys do is parrot Limbaugh's and Beck's talking points ... for people who supposedly are so into freedom, if anyone disagrees with you, you want to take them out!

    Just come on and admit it: You want to control everything and everyone; you want to decide who gets to say and do what; you want to tell people what God to worship and who to sleep with.

    You're nothing but a bunch of ignorant hypocrites!

    And I bet CNN won't post this ...

    November 13, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  23. Party Purity will never bring Political Power!

    McVeigh was a terrorist and he was not tried by a military commission, so why should these 5. Many were not even detained in the country of Iraq or Afghanistan. Illegal ailiens are tried and found guilty in our civil courts everyday.

    You cons just want to assume that since the dick and his bush say these detainees are guilty it is true. I want them tried, and if guilty, I want the harshest punishment meted out.

    But I do not want to randomly start shooting detainees at Gitmo.

    You cons should just have had them drawn and quartered when you had them in Gitmo.

    November 13, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  24. sean

    This is truly pathetic. Another no-win situation for Obama. Keep prisoners in our Cuban gulag, and Republicans would complain; put them on trial in our own Justice system and they howl. Losers the bunch of the! Have they forgotten our system of justice has effectively dealt with evey case of terrorism (foreign or domestic) in its history? Have Republicans forgetten why we have the courts? The biggest terrorist organization facing America is the GOP!

    November 13, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  25. Danny

    What is the far right afraid of by actually giving the suspects a trial? If the case is as cut and dry as they say, it shouldn't take long for them to be judged guilty. Or would they rather we just lined them up and shot them because they just KNOW the guys are guilty and that's good enough for them? That's something that a third world dictatorship would do, not the leader of the free world. Surely we're more advanced than a third world dictatorship? Judging from some of the comments I've read, maybe we aren't.

    November 13, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
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