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. Texas Doc

    Its funny how Republicans acted so hard when they sent other people's kids to fight wars (Bring Em On, Misson Accomplished) and now theyare scaredy cats about trying these suspects in America. Last time I checked our courts were pretty good at condemning murderers to death.

    November 13, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  2. t-fly

    Remember, Tim McVeigh was a US Citizen, thats why he had a civilian trial. These terrorists are not US Citizens, but came over here with the sole purpose of Attacking the US. They should be tried in a military trial.

    November 13, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  3. David in Houston

    I think it's only fair that we Americans get to decide their fate.

    Very appropriate indeed.

    November 13, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  4. Kingssman

    Umm? this guy was captured in 2003 "with solid evidence" sat in Gitmo, finally tried in "military court" in 2008 but the judge stalled the case due to lack of "defense", now Obama is sending them to civilian court with the same charges "2,979 accounts of murder" seeking death penalty, a new judge and finally after 6 years this guy will finally be tried and sentenced. And republicans complain.... go figure

    November 13, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  5. Rose

    Those who compare this to McVeigh, yes, he was tried in an American court, he was American born and entitled to the same rights as any other American. These other terrorist were not American born and do not deserve being tried in an American Court only a few blocks away from Ground Zero. Just ask the families of those who died on 9/11 how they feel about this. They don't even deserve to be read Miranda rights, they are not Americans.

    November 13, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  6. midwest liberal

    "...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."

    Golly, a Republican would never, ever do anything like that.

    November 13, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  7. Sean from CT

    I applaud Holder for uploading on of the greatest AMERICAN traditions conceived by our FOUNDING FATHERS! The principle that NO MAN will be condemned without DUE PROCESS!

    We are better than the terrorists, and if we sacrifice the virtues that make us better than they are, then we become no better.

    November 13, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  8. David in Houston

    Just think what'll happen if these guys ever make it into season.

    November 13, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  9. cph9680

    I guess, following the logic of history, after Clinton tried the original '93 WTC terrorist in American Court...In 2017, thanks to Obumbles, we can expect another massive attack 9/11 scale on our country. No thanks, try 'em in Gitmo.

    November 13, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  10. Randy

    Some slick lawyer will screw this up for the victims and thier families. These are prisoners of war...treat them as such. Military tribunals are they real way to deal with them. Sentencing should include the death penalty or at least life. Don't let the ACLU have a chance to stick thier noses into any of this.

    November 13, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  11. usualone

    Why are these people so afraid of a civilian jury? You just spread your hatred for the Democrats under the falsehood that you are more patriotic than the rest of us. You simply HATE Democrats, no matter what they do. This is another excuse to jump on the negative bandwagon. Any President would have kept us safe after 911 and at any time the terrorists will attack. So stop your poison notes and lets work together as Americans. I am sure many of those who spout the venom will be the first ones who actually will need the government in their lives. Bitter people, get over it and work to correctively solve problems. So called "leftists" are not terrorist sympathizers. They believe in the Constitution.

    November 13, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  12. Marguerite

    "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!"


    Ah, Concerned...who was the president on 9/11? Bush and his cronys failed to keep us safe when it mattered most. 9/11 happened on his watch. Bush is a laughingstock.

    November 13, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  13. Debbie from VA

    Reading these comments I cannot believe the naviete coming from the left. This has nothing to do with your so-called Republican hate. These people are not American citizens subject to the US Constitution and its protections. They are for the most part, foreign terrorists who will kill you without blinking an eye. They fly airplanes into buildings. They do not care if you want to show them love and understanding, give them hugs and kisses and apologize because we treates them bad, they will look you in the eye, shout their jihadist comments and kill you. They are driven by extremist ideaology and have no tolerance for anyone or anything.

    November 13, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  14. Beka

    Real leaders assure the masses that everything is going to be alright, Tyrants use fear and intimidation to keep their people scared.

    November 13, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  15. katn

    What Republicans don't seem to realize is that trying terrorists through the military elevates them to the level of soldiers. It gives them dignity in the eyes of the world.
    They should be tried as criminals and punished as criminals because that is what they are. The 9/11 attacks were crimes, not acts of war. We wouldn't have tried the Japanese soldiers who attacked Pearl Harbor in civilian court because they were soldiers. Terrorists are not soldiers. They fight for no nation, they wear no uniform. They are criminals, just like gangsters or murderers. Let the law take care of them, and let us demonstrate that unlike terrorists, we respect human rights and the law.

    November 13, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  16. Sean

    So then are critics saying that our civilian courts are not capable of reaching appropriate rulings? Why are they good enough for serial killers, or rapists, or anyone else if they're not good enough for suspected terrorists?

    November 13, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |

    You people ALL need to get ahold of yourselves.


    November 13, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  18. Sean

    "Concerned" said –

    "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", perhaps you've forgotten that the largest terrorist attack in U.S. history happened on Bush's watch.

    November 13, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  19. SV

    If I remeber correctly Cheney/Bush did say either you are with us or Traitors. Rethug tea party clowns are hell bent to prove themselves traitors as per definition of their god father aka Cheney.

    Obama administration need to go out on full blown media blitz to uncover these treason loving Rethugs. Just remind them of Tim McVeigh etc. and they will run away like dog with his tail between his legs.

    November 13, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |

    Bush and Cheeeney are WAR CRIMINALS


    November 13, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  21. Alimi

    Does it meant that the Republicans and IndRep Lieberman do not have faith in the Constitution of the United States to meet the exigency of this ocassion? In their attempt to tarnish the President at all cost, they are inadvertently undermining the Constitution. To bring these criminals to justice in a civilian court would show the whole world that we are a nation of laws and just people. Additionally, an open trial in an open court instead of a closed military tribunal would show the world how horiffic their crimes are and the agony suffered the families of the victims. It will also show that we do not pay lip service to the concept of the supremacy of our laws and that unlike the Republican party, not everybody is amendable to taliban-like justice.

    November 13, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  22. Kendall

    They're not being treated like common criminals, They'll be tried and found guilty like no one in this country has been tried for. They'll be treated like Extremist Terrorist being judged by New Yorkers. I think that fair. More than fair. Their heads will roll

    November 13, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  23. yuri

    Wow, what a diverse bunch of opinions! THE OTHER LEGAL ARGUMENT AGAINST IS THAT THESE SCOUNDRELS DID NOT OFFICIALLY WAGE WAR AGAINST THE US, ALTHOUGH THIS MAY SEEM A BIT CLOUDY. Nonetheless, these creeps oughta be tried w/o any kind of defense lawyers. We know we are asking for too much, but that's us.

    November 13, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  24. Dean

    What are the republicans worried they may escape? or better yet the case get's throwen out of court.? Come on it's New York any jury will find them guilty before the trial starts these are the people who lost loved ones on 9-11 who better then the people of New York to deside their fate. Even if some judge did set them free they wouldn't last a day on the street before someone killed them.

    November 13, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  25. thatGUY

    I don't believe the death penalty would be the correct choice in this situation. Isn't part of Jihad being able to die for it so you can go to heaven? Maybe these people want to die....let the justice system work. We could execute them all right away without a trial, and that may work 99 out of 100 times, but what about that 1 innocent person that was put to death? Does that justify not having these trials? It may be possible that some of these detainees will get less than a life sentence, but how long do you really think a suspected terrorist would last in prison?

    November 13, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
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