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. Jim

    I should think the people of New York would want to have these guys prosecuted in a public court so they can see them for what they are, punish them, and get closure.

    All you right wing nuts are a bunch of sissies if you don't think our country and our justice system can handle these guys. You guys are the biggest bunch of crybabies I have ever run into.

    November 13, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  2. Jean 2

    What do you suggest, just keep feeding and taking care of them??
    It is time to do something with them!!! Our courts can and do work most of the time, just keep the special interest away.

    November 13, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  3. John, Brooklyn, NY

    This was an incredibly wise move on the part of Eric Holder. The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that the defendents have civil liberties that are protected by the Constitution that would not be afforded to prisoners of war.

    The last thing we need is for convictions of these men to be overturned by the Supreme Court because we tried them under the wrong system....then have to set them free because they would be protected by double jeopardy.

    Bravo did the right thing...and the SMART thing!

    November 13, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  4. daniel

    To concerned:
    George Bush kept us safe, eh? Didn't that bit of business known as 9/11 happen on his watch? Greatest commander in chief, eh? Greater than Lincoln, Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt? I think your cheese has slid off your cracker.

    November 13, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  5. Jack

    CNN, this is the story of the day and AMERICAN CITIZENS, including the families of the fallen of 9/11 are OUTRAGED at the fact that these self-admitted tetrrorists get their day in a civil court, like a common criminal. what it will insure is that terrorist idealogy get's its day in court and that they get to tell their sad tale of being tortured at the hands of their terrible American captors. I wonder if anyone will feel sorry for the Americans in those towers that burned to death waiting for rescue, or called their loved ones to say goodbye. Good work CNN for trying to hide this for your buddy Obama in the small print section of the website. Don't worry, he is away as always when something bad is announced.. Mr telfon telepromptor president won't have to worry about it too much longer.. this pretty much seals the deal that he WILL NEVER BE REELECTED in 2012!

    November 13, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  6. Lee

    Too bad the GOP has so little faith in the US Constitution and has so many, well, scaredycats, in charge.
    To think, they don't beleieve the US is strong enough to conduct its business in the open and on its own soil.

    November 13, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  7. johnrj08

    For the dopes here who think KSM shouldn't get a trial because he planned the 9/11 attack, I would remind you that THIS country gives even the worst mass murderers a trial as well as free legal counsel if they can't afford it. And they get this treatment, whether they are citizens or not, because this country is not like middle eastern theocracies or totalitarian regimes. Secondly, what could possibly be better than to have our judicial system try and convict these animals in the city of New York? Relatives of the victims of the attack are already speaking out in favor of this decision. Do you loudmouths think you're 100% and they're just tools of the administration? It is justice on a poetic scale. The fact is, no matter what the Obama administration would have decided to do about these killers, right-wing opponents would have found cause to whine and scream.

    November 13, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  8. Charles

    Not only were their acts terrorism but also acts of war. Their fates should be determined by a military tribunal, not a civilian court where they would be granted the civil rights that were not granted to their intended targets. If they believe their acts to be Jihad (holy war), then they should be prepared to suffer the fates of suicide bombers who believe themselves to be martyrs who will happily die for their belief. Save taxpayers the burden of a trial as well as the resurrected horror America lived through during 9/11.

    November 13, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  9. Ron in California

    I wonder if this decision will make New York less safe. God forbid the terrorist do something crazy. But since they are crazy...

    November 13, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  10. Tina

    Friends of mine died that day as I used to work in World Trade Tower 2. 3,000+ people died that day and family dreams crushed that day - and here we are the Obama administration is trying to politicized this? The last thing you would want to do is to rub on the face who were deeply hurt and hearthfelt crushed that day and to this moment - and read the rights? What a government we have. There is a limit to being politically right.

    November 13, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  11. Republican'ts are so YESTERDAY

    At least THIS administration is bringing them to trial! Unlike the previous one which had 3 years to do it and NEVER DID!! Does the name "TIMOTHY MCVEIGH" ring a bell with any of you un-patriotic imbeciles???? He was a domestic terrorist and gee, out court system was good enough to try HIM! Is it that you perpetual complainers don't believe in our Constitution? Or do you not believe in our judicial system??? No, you just see this another attempt at a knee-jerk opportunity to criticize the President! You people don't really care ANYTHING about America.

    By the way, REPUBLICAN'TS . . . . How come your boy, Bushie, never caught Bin Laden??????

    November 13, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  12. Juven Bachan

    What else Democrats you have in store for us Americans? Mothers marrying their sons? Daughters marrying their fathers? What else? The world is going upside down with the Democrats in power. I wouldn't be surprise to wake up one morning and read that your govt has legalized child molestation.

    November 13, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  13. elliott

    This person is a terrorist.......HE HAS ALSO CONFESSED..........he is not a criminal.....HE IS A TERRORIST......Obama is screwing this up royally!

    November 13, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  14. Tram

    Hey, GOPers - Bush himself said these people weren't combatants, that they weren't soldiers and couldn't be held under the Geneva Convention.

    That means they weren't soldiers and aren't eligible for a military court.

    If you they ARE eligible for a military court, then that means this is MORE proof that Bush is a war criminal for violating the Geneva Convention whic the USA signed. He needs to be arrested and tried at the Hague.

    You can't have it both ways.

    November 13, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  15. Republican'ts are so YESTERDAY

    And I have one more point: If this Administration and especially Eric Holder were as liberal as all of you fear-mongering-morons are saying . . . . CHENEY WOULD BE IN PRISON RIGHT NOW!!!

    November 13, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  16. Len in Washington

    I'm really tired of these individuals that have kidnapped the brand of the Republican Party. I'm not a Republican but I simply I can't believe that the majority of those who are can feel "acceptive" of what's going on with their Party. You folks need to stand up against these antagonists and find some representation that is logical and honest.

    November 13, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  17. Barbara -

    Let the judicial system work... show the world that America IS the nation of laws. Terrorists have already been tried and found guilty in the United States- legally!!! Obviously there is enough evidence against these individuals to bring a successful trial conclusion, otherwise the prosecution would not have gone forward in this manner. Give the administration kudos for wanting transparency and justice without flaw.

    November 13, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  18. g

    masterminds of 911 i though bin-ladin and sadam hussien were the ones, invaded two countrys for nothing,

    November 13, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  19. P.Y. Los Angeles

    Good Idea!
    with one small problem.
    For civil court we suppose to have "an impartial jury ",and were will we find that?On Mars??
    Who can find this 12 people,that did not watched TV on or after 9/11,did not read any newspapers,got internet cut off ,were in coma ?

    November 13, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  20. mjm

    The Military Commissions Act of 2006 was created to try these non-citizens / terrorists.

    IT WAS VOTED ON IN CONGRESS AND IS LAW. Both democrats and republicans voted for it. Why write the law if you’re not going to follow it? And does this mean we can ignore any future health care laws signed by Obama after 2012?

    Some of you Democrats, if not all, are flat out ignorant if you think these guys belong in our civilian court system. What part of non-citizen of the US did you not understand?

    November 13, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  21. Independant in Indiana

    "Concerned November 13th, 2009 12:50 pm ET

    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!"


    Obviously besides 9/11 happened on his watch.

    November 13, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  22. Citizen

    Personally Iove the idea of New Yorkers handling this trial. They bore the brunt of 9/11.

    November 13, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  23. Republican'ts are so YESTERDAY

    "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?"

    Uhhhhhh . . . I really doubt that when a rapist goes on trial the jury is made up by a bunch of rapists, which by your twisted logic, would be a jury of "peers". Stupid.

    November 13, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  24. Clint

    This alleged human being has been in US custody since March 1, 2003.
    Why didn't the previous Administration have him tried as a war criminal before a Military Tribunal. I know that it took a while for the Sheik to grow gills, but there was plenty of time for this to be dealt with. Just another problem dumped by Bush/Cheney in their eight years of bringing this country down.

    November 13, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  25. Cris

    It's time for a civics lesson for all you liberal whiners, crybabies and terrorist lovers. McVeigh was a citizen of the US so he had to be tried in civilian courts. This has a precident that goes back to the Civil War. The terrorist are not American citizens and furthermore are enemy combatants and the US military has jurisdiction over them. The POTUS has the authority to transfer the juridiction to civilian courts but in doing so allows the defendants to have the protection of the Constitution during their trial. No matter the results of this trial they can never again be tried by the military so if the case is dismissed for any reason the terrorists will walk away free. Why would the president change the jurisdiction of the terrorist? One can only assume he wants to create a three ring circus and to let these killers go free because he feels the need to blame the former administration for something else. Or maybe we can assume he is just an idiot who doesn't know any better. I still wonder why this announcement was made while POTUS was out of the country?

    November 13, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
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