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. Citizen

    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!

    Hey Concerned, this is sarcasm right?

    November 13, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  2. LN

    Oh, yee of little faith. American Justice will prevail. Why do you have such little faith in your own country's ability to do anything except drop bombs? American Justice and American Rule of Law will shine. America will handle this just fine. It took care of McVeigh. It will take care of these 5 terrorists. We need to restore our credibility as a country of laws, not renegades and vigilantes. Time for the grownups to take over.

    November 13, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    any half witted lawyer can this moved to a new venue do to the media coverage

    they wont go to court in this country

    November 13, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  4. IRA

    You liberals really are dumb. First of all Timothy McVeigh WAS AN AMERICAN CITIZEN THESE TERRORISTS ARE NOT AMERICAN CITIZENS – They do not get the same treatment (N'UFF SAID) – I get the feeling that most Obama supporters are first time voters and young. Their opinions are pretty ignorant.

    November 13, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  5. mjm

    Timothy McVeigh? Are you kidding me?

    What country was McVeigh from? USA

    What country is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed from? HINT...not the USA.


    You Democrats CANNOT be this stupid....can you?

    November 13, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  6. SF in NYC

    This is an insult to everyone in New York. Lets bring the muders to see their dirty work,. Then we can have every New Yorker relive that day over and over as the trial goes on and on. Can you imagine the muslims from flatbush ave cheering their heros on right in the shadow of the WTC. I am appaled at this decision.

    November 13, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  7. BLM

    What do you expect from an incompetent like Holder? Him and Obama both..just don't get it. Each day this administration disgusts me more..and of course Obama high tailed it out of here before the announcement. Sounds a bit chicken to me.

    November 13, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  8. Dave

    Concerned – maybe you forgot who was in office when 9/11 happened? I guess you would let Madoff handle your finances too?

    November 13, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  9. Just Stop

    Lieberman, Cornyn, and Smith have never spoken or acted with conscience on American soil. They are shameful, divisive hypocrites. However, we can take heart. They know that they do not care about our Constitution, our people, or our ideals. They are self-serving, sad, and mis-guided. I can listen to others disagree with the decision of Attorney General Holder. But not those three.

    November 13, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  10. Kevin in Ohio

    I hear all the liberal loons say that we conservatives have no faith in our judicial system. That's right! The liberals and lawyers have turned it in to a farce with outrageous protections afforded to criminals. Miranda rights? That was the first exampleon the slippery slope we have been on...... people too stupid to know right from wrong were let free because they were not "read their rights".... something they should know instinctively if they reside here. I can see it now....these terrorists will be let free because they were not read their rights and because the prosecutors are unable to bring evidence to light that, by making it puiblic, would sacrifice national security.

    We've come to this, America...... our country is in control of the enemy, and we can't stop them. Obama was the anti-American left-wingers' coup-de-grace.

    November 13, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  11. SLP

    Okay, Eric Holder, you idiot. When these animals that murdered 3,000 Americans get off because their defense lawyers and the judges presiding over the case are in the back pockets of this liberal, radical administration, YOU can go and explain it personally to each person who lost a family member on 911. Good luck with that.

    November 13, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  12. Joe M

    In California these scum could plead it down to running a stop sign..

    November 13, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  13. hjt

    You liberals have completely lost your mind and reason- giving US constitutional rights to terrorists who are not even American citizens. You should be ashamed of yourselves in standing on some ideology at the expense of the sacrifice 3000 gave on 9/11. With Holder's approach today we would have given Hitler constitutional rights for his crimes against humanity The terrorists should be tried by military court and if convicted placed in front of a firing squad without haste

    November 13, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  14. sniffit makes me glad to be conservative

    just be sure to stick these thugs in democrat districts. fry these animals.

    oh, before i forget, holder, make sure you also try the black panthers for voter intimidation. stop sticking up for the brothers.

    November 13, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  15. Rick in Florida

    Crimes committed on American soil are tried on American soil where the crime was committed. ALL defendants are accorded rights. If we change because of what his crime was: we lose; they win.

    November 13, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  16. Elizabeth Ludwig

    About time we started treating these thugs as the murderers they are – they are not martyrs, heroes, or even terrorists (I haven't been terrorized yet – even on 9/11/01. People made up that terminology to make it sound worse, and scare everyone into eroding civil liberties in this country. Dead is dead, whether from natural causes, accident, or murder. These trials are long overdue, and as for jury of one's peers, that simply means of citizens.

    November 13, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  17. Pepou

    They should be tried in a civil court. This is the proper legal procedure. But the Republicans will always find fault with this administration, even the weather.

    November 13, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  18. Larry S

    Don't be too hard on oBLAHma . . . he is not experienced and he doesn't know how to lead and do the correct things. He is becoming a radical against the good parts of the USA. And he has enough followers with a lack of intelligence to continue to blindly follow.

    November 13, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  19. Concerned?

    To Concerned:

    Bush kept up safe??? Who was President when 9/11 happened? Who got a PDB that warned us about Osama bin Laden using airplanes? Let's not re-write history, Bush managed to keep us safe except for the worst attack on America soil in history.

    November 13, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  20. JB

    So the republicans don't want us to give these people any rights or due process? Sounds exactly like what happens to our troops when they are captured, and we think thats wrong. republicans are becoming just like our enemy. No surprise there.

    November 13, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  21. good things are coming---S Callahan

    My understanding is this is in the Fed. southern tiers courts..if can be sure the American interests will be at the forefront...don't overwhealm yourself with this.....this may be a worse fate than the military courts.

    November 13, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  22. Alex in Wisconsin

    Well, i know people hate the idea of mass murders getting their day in court. But people with values understand that values aren't conditional. We, as Americans, believe that our justice system is the best in the world because it is fair to people who in alot of cases do not deserve mercy. Are American values so weak, that they can be disregarded so easily? I hate that people who claim to have values can abandon them when it's inconvenient for them. Despite the critics, most of who probably already abandoned or sold their values years ago, the Obama administration is making the right choice. We can't claim the moral high ground if we sit on a slippery slope.It's just a shame the Bush administration didn't do this years ago.

    November 13, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  23. Ted

    9/11 was an act of war committed by members of an organization that has openly declared war on the USA. Our military has been engaged in miltary action for several years against that organization.

    So how is it even remotely conceivable that they should be tried in civilian court?

    November 13, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  24. Larry S

    You dump bunch of liberals . . . you actually think oBLAHma is smarter than Bush . . . Obie can not come close to Bush in being able to lead this country.

    November 13, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  25. David in Houston

    Concerned wrote, "Regardless of where you stand on Bush's economics... NO ONE can say he didn't keep us safe."

    Yeah, tell that to the folks who lost their lives on 9-11.

    November 13, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
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