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. Paul Ernest Show

    Republicans should not be in a hurry to crticize. Mcgvie of the Oklohoma bombing and others who have commited atrocious acts have been tried in civilian courts and justice was well served. The govt can always appeal or congress can move for a miitary trial if any civilian court appears too soft to give these guys the death penalty they deserve. What matters is that they are tried, instead of feeding and housing them perpetually at the Bay. Is it not still true that justice delayed is justice denied.

    November 13, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  2. There They Go Again

    Oh so we're supposed to take our cues from the "Moral Highground" Party of George Worst President Ever Bush, Dick Darth Vader Cheney, torturemongers, "Brownie,you're doing a good job, justice firing, tin-foil wearing, death-eaters? I think not.

    President Obama is doing a great job and I'll support him, thank you.

    Obama/Biden 2012

    November 13, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  3. Try Them Here

    This happened on U. S. soil and they need to be tried here. We don't need to shove this off on another country. This is our responsibility and I am glad we have 3 branches of government. Republicans in Congress you are crossing the line, your are the legislative branch.

    November 13, 2009 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  4. File under "Sarcasm"

    The trials will turn into a three ring circus with liberal attorneys asking that all the evidence be ruled inadmissable based on torture, illegal wiretaps, illegal search and seizure, etc and to blame everything on the Bush administration. These are all protections that US citizens enjoy but which were never envisioned to be made available to foreign terrorists. (OK, to be PC in the Obama era, replace "terrorists" with "suspects alleged to have caused man made disasters".)

    The only thing more ridiculous would be to try them in California where we know the liberal judges would rule favorably on these arguments and dismiss the charges immediately.

    November 13, 2009 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  5. Slider

    AG Holder once called America a, "Nation of cowards."

    The only reason for this decision is to appease and appeal to the far left base that has overtaken a once proud party.

    How does this help national security, Mr. Holder?

    Is the thinking that by giving terrorists civilian trials going to cause these murderers to think about their barbarism and motivate them to stop their activities?

    Exactly what has your boss, Obama, gotten out of his worldwide apology tour and appeasement and accomodation of our enemies?

    2012 cannot come soon enough.

    November 13, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  6. DJ

    The Republican leadership needs to get off their lazy butts and DO SOMETHING PRODUCTIVE instead of the same OLD fear-mongering and finger pointing. We have already convicted numerous other terror suspects in federal court. Now Dick and Liz Cheney along with Rove will appear on FAUX news and pump-up their MacCarthyist hype-up the hate and fear agenda.

    November 13, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  7. Kate

    Just more SCARE and FEAR TACTICS from the republicans.........I think we I first guy who tried to bomb the World Trade Center some years back was tried in civil court......he was a terrorist, he intended to kill thousands of people and he was found guilty..........so stuff a rag in your mouths and let our system work........Republicans I think you are the ones that are out to distroy this country.....

    November 13, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  8. jay

    Jury trials, are supposed to be a jury of your peers. Anyone of you out there who thinks this is a good idea the "peer" of a terrorist? Anyone out there in Liberal dream land want to be considered a "peer" of the terror mastermind? Or the "peer" of someone who was caught setting an IED, or pointing an RPG at one of our brave soldiers? I know I don't. How fair a trial is he going to get in NYC? This is a show, for all the world to watch America be put on trial by ACLU lawyers who would like nothing more than to humiliate and discredit America as a racist, warmongering counrty that deserves to be knowcked a peg a two.

    November 13, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  9. Connie

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

    November 13, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  10. Concerned

    Regardless of where you stand on Bush's economics... NO ONE can say he didn't keep us safe. He is perhaps the greatest COMMANDER IN CHIEF we've had!

    November 13, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  11. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    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?!

    These maggots should have been put before military tribunals and if there was reasonable evidence that they participated in the deaths of american civilians, they should have been immediately taken out and shot.

    November 13, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  12. eolufemi

    The Congress is claiming the Judiciary is dysfunctional and incapable of doing its job...legislators...lols

    November 13, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  13. NYCitizen

    Breaking news.....NASA has found significant amounts of water on the moon.....translation: The moon can be colonized....who will go there: All terrorists and the U.N. (so I never haver to suffer traffic jams in NYC due to the UN's meetings ever again!). If the terrorists excape the prison domes/pods....who cares!

    November 13, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  14. Marty, Grand Rapids MI

    I can't even believe we are having this conversation.

    Yes, let's not prosecute them using the rule of law. Lets have them in a lawless middle where we can torture them until they confess to their crimes (regardless if they committed them). Maybe we can get the simpson's town mob to start them on fire. They are either POWs or criminals, there is no middle ground here. The fact that some politicians want to bypass the law for their own ends is pathetic and dangerous. Not everyone in GITMO was guilty. How do you pick the good from the bad if they don't go to court? How come our law is perfectly acceptable for the likes of Jeffery Dahmer or Timothy McVeigh but completely unacceptable to random citizens of this world. This is the double standard that America shows to the world and is part of the negative sentiment that people can have for us.

    People, lets live by our values, our constitution and our law and prosecute these people the right way. If we don't have the evidence to convict them, then send them home. I know I wouldn't want it any other way if the government labeled me a "terrorist". Protect YOUR rights by protecting the rights of all.

    November 13, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  15. Tek

    I don't understand the argument by some republicans. Majority of Americans when polled said that Guantanamo should be closed. Also, there has never been an escape by a prisoner from a US supermax prison.

    November 13, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  16. A Real American

    To all who say "lets not do this," what would you do if you were a juror on these trails? Right!!!! You would hang them high. So, what do you think any other ture American who felt the same grief that you felt and the same anger you felt is going to do. While you sit there and criticize this administration these terrorists are brething the same air as you. Let's try, convict, and put to death these cowardly dogs. Anythingelse is just your personal hate for this president and shame on you as an American.

    November 13, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  17. tommygunn

    COME ON GOP WAR MONGLERS this type of HYPOCARCY we don't need.

    If we are going to be the WORLD LEADERS then we need to ACT LIKE IT and quit acting like WORLD DICTATORs.

    This is the same concept that your parents raised you with stating "...you are older, so I expect you to act better than your younger sibling...."

    GOP grow up and act your age. AMERICA is NOT ABOVE MAKING MISTAKES, but we are ABOUT DOING THE RIGHT THING.

    This is NOT A POLITICAL VALUE ISSUE, it is an AMERICAN STANCE for others to SEE....

    November 13, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  18. K

    Hmm a 9/11 mastermind having to face a jury in NYC. In their place I'd rather face the military tribunal.

    November 13, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  19. NYCitizen

    P.S. Re colonizing moon for convicted terrorists and for the UN....same thing for UN delegates who continually abuse the protections of immunity they get while abusing NYC laws....who cares if they escape their domes/pds on the moon?

    November 13, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  20. Jc Ohio

    Its one way or the other!

    Either they're tried in a civilian court and given all the rights & protections available.

    or

    They're tried as war criminals and provided all the rights & protections available as "Prisoners of War" under the Geneva Conventions.

    We can't give them any less, to do so would lower the USA to their standards. How on earth can we call "Foul" if we are no better than they are.

    If we intend to portray ourselves as the shining becon of Truth & Justice .... then all who come before our courts MUST be given the same considerations.

    November 13, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  21. Reformed Republican

    To "Tom in VA"...

    Well said – Spot on!

    Looks like all the GOPers just want "lynch mob justice". It's the way they do things in Texas – Just ask Cronyn, that's where his nut-bag ideas on vigilante justice come from.

    Next the GOP swampers and Texans are going to demand Marshall Law for the whole country with summary execution squads for liberals, Mexicans and other non-evangelical Christians...

    November 13, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  22. NYCitizen

    Seriously....if the terrorists are tried here in NYC and some stupid technicality gets them off.....they are only going to plan and execute BIGGER than 911....

    November 13, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  23. Dieter Zerressen

    Isn't it sad that the rightwing nuts constantly talk about the Constitution but then at the first opportunity throw the whole thing under the bus. Whether it's giving a suspected criminal his day in court or illegal wiretapping or holding people in jail without charges, the Republicans want to use kangaroo trials on everyone (everyone except their criminal CEO friends on Wall Street – those guys they want to let go with a slap on the wrist). Anyway, liberals aren't afraid of terrorists, aren't afraid of our legal system and aren't afraid of bringing people to trail and airing the legal evidence for all to see.

    November 13, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  24. victim of republican greed

    It looks like the wingnuts are hoping these terrorists do not get the death penalty, so then they can rise up against Obama, our constitution, the bill of rights, the judicial system, and democracy.

    November 13, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  25. DT

    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.
    -------------------------------–

    People died in war last time I checked buddy. We dont want to kill civilains. but those cowrd terrorists hide behind them what do you expect? This is war not a square dance...civvies will die and that will continue to happen...lol at havin to go to trial casue a civvie died in a war...jus lol...

    November 13, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
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