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)
  1. Senior Lilarose in Oregon


    Something "top officials" of the Republican party can complain about for today, November 13, 2009.

    Wonder what tomorrow will bring........

    November 13, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  2. fools and their freedoms are soon parted

    Mv Veigh was an American citizen scumbag terrorist

    These five should NOT be tried in the US courts. They do NOT have the same rights.

    November 13, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  3. Larry

    If found guilty, I say put them in the octogon with Brock Lesnar, Randy Coture and Kimbo Slice at the same time, and let those three beat them to death.

    November 13, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  4. NYCitizen

    Connie: McVeigh was tried in an American Court BECAUSE McVEIGH IS AMERICAN!!!!!

    November 13, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  5. panem et circensus

    Peter E November 13th, 2009 12:35 pm ET

    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.
    The worry is that in open court in the civil judicial system the lawyers who defend these guys can use legal tactics to expose sensitive information and endanger our ability to protect the US – or demand that the guys be released if we put national security ahead of a conviction.

    Can you say "media circus"? There will be endless grandstanding and showboating and these guys will be turned into "victims" just like the TERRORIST who shot up Fort Hood is being portrayed as a victim by the lame-stream media.

    Just look what happened this week in Massachusetts. The guy who was plotting to kill people in malls had scores of "supporters" packing the courtroom and lining the halls at the courthouse. His lawyer asked for house arrest release and, knowing the judges in this state, he just might get it!

    November 13, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  6. JP

    Terrorism has been eradicated from the face of the earth by the administration; they’re only ordinary criminals.

    Many strongly feel the actions of Major Hasan was an act of terror, but then, what good is it calling it anything, when people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed are being treated like petty criminals.

    November 13, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  7. Plinking Reality

    It is good to see the Administration gets it, but sad to see Republicans don't get it. The War on Terror isn't about taking over countries; it isn't about killing people; it is, as Reagan realized about the Cold War, a war of ideology. IF America wants to win, we must realize that we MUST live up to our values, especially those of justice. IF we fail to live up to those values by holding people without trial or convicting them without justice, the terrorists win because they prove that our values are hollow, meaningless, and that the rest of the world should not emulate them because even we don't believe in them. As Reagan said, America must be the beacon of freedom and justice to the world as civilization's last, great hope.

    November 13, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  8. Fan of Common Sense

    All of our forefathers, particularly the authors and signers of the constitution, have GOT to be turning over in their graves. Did they really intend for these rights to be extended to a bunch of uncivilized, weapon-toting, cave-dwelling, barbaric religious fanatics on the other side of the globe who were hell-bent on destroying the very things the constitution was written to protect? I DON'T THINK SO! (Gosh, I miss Cheney.)

    Elections have consequences people!

    November 13, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  9. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    My mistake. Make that almost THREE thousand.

    November 13, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  10. Terry, Lakeland Florida

    "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?
    You forget these people are NOT americans. They have no rights here. They were captured outside of US soil and they have NO grounds to ask for legal protections. Let me tell you what's going to happen. Obama is going to hand pick the most left swinging judge he can find. Then when the trial starts (After Obama is long gone from office) these people are going to start making demands...such as..'We want a list of the undercover agents that helped capture us'...'We want a report on how they found us'....'We want to a break down of all secret programs used to identify us'...'We want all us secrets'...and that left wing judge will grant it to them and then guess what....the next 9/11 will be unstoppable because we'd have lost our ability to detect it.....welcome to the far left...where Obama and the dems want us.

    November 13, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  11. Willy Brown

    .This is nothing more than Obummer trying to embarrass the last administration

    November 13, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  12. BestProfitCompany = WAR

    What's the matter rethuglicans, you don't trust the USA justice system? Of course not, you don't trust anything American when your kind (rethuglicans) are NOT in charge of this country.

    I am glad this is going to civilian court. The military court is too control and not that reliable. I hope they find out that the CIA planted this attack. It was the government job to prevent it but for some reason it wasn't. If you need a clue, find out what happen to NORAD on that day, 9/11.

    November 13, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  13. Bill

    The same rights as a American citizen, Da boy is more worried about his brothers in arm then the American people.

    November 13, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  14. Charlie New Mexico

    The five in question are CHARGED with crimes against Americans. They should be tried in a court of law. This is a nation of laws, despite some of the questionable goings on to the contrary in past years. This is NOT a nation of "Mob Justice" as espoused by some of these postings, or by frightened little creatures who espouse the politics of fear and became wealthy by doing so. I certainly do not understand exactly how having these people under secure lock and key in the United States endangers me, or any other American, any more than having them under secure lock and key in Gitmo.

    November 13, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  15. Jimmy James

    O.J. was found not guilty. Child Molesters are freed over and over only to commit horrendous acts against children. Now some liberal lawyer will use this as a way to make it a trial of the Bush administration. Our courts fail all the time with activist judges and people too stupid to get out of jury duty.

    The left doesn't seem upset that Obama has left most of the Bush policies in place. He even renewed the "Rendition" order. You know that means that not only do terrorists not get rights, they are taken to countries where torture is legal.

    CNN found it necessary to lead the ticker with yet another Palin story. If this lady is so irrelevant why are the left OBSESSED with her?

    November 13, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  16. Fan of Common Sense

    Timothy McVeigh more than deserved the punishment that he got and I will not waste one single word defending him, but he was an AMERICAN CITIZEN, and therefore consitutional rights and a civilian trial were perfectly appropriate for him.

    If you left-wingers do not have the common sense to understand the legal difference between an american citizen and cave-dwelling Jihad scum from the other side of the planet, then I'm afraid I can't help you.

    November 13, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  17. Carmen, Miami FL

    "Restoring due process and the rule of law." Seems like a pretty simple idea, no? Who knew that could be so controversial? It seems like these Republican idiots can't understand how Guantanamo Bay and military tribunals held in secret undermine our standing in the world and act as recruiting tools for terrorist organizations.

    November 13, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  18. Proud Member..Party of No

    Still wonder why Americans don't trust democrats on national security issues?

    November 13, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  19. Marine

    America is a nation of cowards...thats a fact....and every single one of us Veterans know that to be the truth...

    November 13, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  20. Idiot_Pelosi

    I'm quite sure the liberal morons (aka DUMocRATS) who are doing a good job of ruining the economy while trying to move us to Socialism will come out against the Death Sentence.

    I don't care if its criiminal or military as long as the ACLU and the DUMocRATS don't get to appear the DEATH PENALTY for these terrorists.

    Instead, let's hang them in public for the terrorists to see if this is how they want to meet ALLAH.

    Try them, find them guility, then hang them. Not 20 years of appeals.

    November 13, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  21. too bad the republiklans lack ideas

    Yeah, the republiklans want to OUTSOURCE the trial of these horrendous & despicable five to another country....Bush economics is alive and well within the rank & file party of "NO"!!!

    November 13, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  22. Kevin Schuder

    In response to "Concerned,"

    Do you remember hearing anything about terrorists flying planes into buildings in Manhattan? And the pentagon? George W. Bush did not "always keep us safe," he ignored all the information and mocked the intelligence telling him such a thing might happen. They actually thought the outgoing Clinton officials were 'paranoid' for saying the no. 1 security concern was Al Qaeda terrorists, and they have a plot to hijack planes to fly into buildings.
    He was actually the worst president we've had in national defense.

    November 13, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  23. Pete

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the Shoe Bomber guy tried AND convicted in a Federal Court and sent to prison?

    Either America is about due process and the rule of law, or it isn't. We don't get to put a shiny asterik next to our values because we're scared.

    November 13, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  24. Yusuf

    @Concerned – I guess Bush would be the greatest commander in chief and kept us safe if two Sky Scrappers falling is security. If making all of the nations in the world burn flags at the thought of America rather than cheering in the streets holding American flags like they have done for Obama, is security, then yes Bush kept us safe. If Bush could have shoes thrown at him in his final days while in other lands, and Obama have in Japan students actually studying his words from a best selling book of his speeches; I guess I can see your point how Bush made us safer. Nothing says "I feel safe" than walking into a biker bar where everyone hates your guts to death. Wouldn't we all feel just peachy in a situation like that?

    November 13, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  25. Wavering Democrat

    I think we should let them go if we are going to be politically correct about it.

    November 13, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
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