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. Lee

    I agree with the AG, I am active duty military and I don't see how we can justify a military trial, which is basically the same as civilian courts; when there was "NO" military action against the us! At least these rats will be tried by the court system that they basically tried to destroy. Now lets give them a jury (american citizens of course) and find them guilty, then sentence to rot in prison; because death is too easy and quick. That's what they want, so lets not give them what they want; but what we want instead.

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

    I say go for it. We'll see how long they last when they're convicted and sent to a Federal Super Max. It'll make Guantanamo look like a Carribean Resort. They'll be taken out pretty quickly I would think. I'd rather that than continue spending $$$$$ to keep them in Cuba and can we really realistically keep them there indefinitely? Something has to be done with them.

    FYI, to my knowledge there has never been an escape from a SuperMax; I'm not afraid.

    November 13, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  3. Robin

    Connie November 13th, 2009 12:49 pm ET

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

    Ummm, he was an American. Unlike these cowards.

    November 13, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  4. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    This administration was left with the ugliness of making decisions that we don't agree with but must be done within law. Had these prisoners been handle correctly in the beginning we would not be so angry with the decisions that must be made at this time. Even though I don't agree with the decision, I've read the Geneva Convention, which the U.S. signed into, I have to agree with Holder's position. These criminals must be executed.

    November 13, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  5. terry,va

    With the way Obummie acts, he just might be a Muslim.

    November 13, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  6. sueb

    Dear Republicans–These are not super-villains. They have no special powers. Are you saying that the United States of America can't handle this? Are you implying that these punks are stronger than we and our criminal justice system are? How dare you! As a born and bred Brooklynite, I want these terrorists to see NY has not only survived; but, we're stronger now. I want us to be able to look them in the face and say 'You lose". Bring them here and show the world the true might and power of the American people–our system of law, our love of the constitution and, even, our ability to argue with each other and come to a consensus–in this case– justice. For once, GOP, put America ahead of politics. Stand up for what is right and try, just try, to support the president in his quest to punish these killers. We are America, we are strong and we live up to our ideals!

    November 13, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  7. Monster Zero

    Okay libtards, let me explain the concern with bringing these TERRORISTS to US soil and prosecuting in a US Civil Court. The TERRORISTS are provided all rights under OUR Constitution. The evidence and confessions that has been extracted from these scum would most likely be deemed "taken under duress" and thrown out of court. The right to "Due Process" would be examined as they have been held for years without being tried, NY is about a liberal court as any in our once great Nation. These TERRORISTS were captured on the battlefield as enemy combatants, they were not Mirandaized and explained their rights as they were military POW's suspected of war crimes against America. Any good defense lawyer could find a sack full of loop holes under our existing system to have the charges thrown out of court. The TERRORISTS will be provided FREE to them a team of defense lawyers, the courthouse will be a high security area and this will take YEARS for a jury to convict them. I am sure there will be Muslims in the jury pool, I am sure there will be liberal do gooders in the jury pool that don't believe in the death penalty and this will result in millions of dollars wasted on a bunch of MUSLIM TERRORISTS!

    November 13, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  8. terry,va

    It's time to get over the political correctness. Obummie if you and Holder want to lay with terrorists, get a one ticket and have at it.

    November 13, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  9. Patrick - Indianapolis

    What is this? Bush kept us safe? 911 did happen on his watch. How many died fighting in oil wars? More than died in 911. So 2000+ died on American soil due to 'terrorist' attacks under Bush, and so far, only 12 have died under Obama from a mentally ill 'terrorist'. By your logic, Obama is doing a hell of a job. You logic sucks. Go back to school.

    November 13, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  10. Sea.gem

    These are not American citizens...McVeigh is not a war criminal..although he is dead!

    ..people who question those who question our legal system must have forgotten the OJ trial or the dozens of other murderes who have walked on technicalities...the military court is actually fairer...the judge can ask questions, jurors can ask questions...ignorqant libs can even read about it before they comment...but that asks too much.

    November 13, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  11. Benjamin in Columbus

    Where were the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center in the 90's tried? I don't recall any of them being turned loose on American soil. I can think of a couple of Federal or State prisons that would be perfect for these cowards.

    November 13, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  12. from the middle

    Why not let them be tried by Americans? They broke the law in America. The only ones against this are the people who hate America! For all the haters, quit crying & get involved!

    November 13, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  13. Ilona,PA

    Hey Rethuglicans, what was your administration during the last 7 years? You had plenty of time to put terrorists to justice in military courts, why that did not happen on your watch? As far as I remember Timothy the domestic terrorist got a death penalty. I will eat my hat if the 9/11 mastermind won't get the death penalty.I thought that Osama was the mastermind. I remember very well President Bush saying "Osama bin Laden? You know, I don't think about him that much". Imagine if President Obama would say this, you guys would eat him alive.

    November 13, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  14. Ron

    Heck, why even have a trial. Just take em out and shoot em or hang em like the nazis would have done. It's the American way.

    November 13, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  15. A. Smith

    The Republican party and Dick Cheney in particular doesn't want the American people and the world at large to learn they outsourced the water torture to some of his Blackwater associates who charged a huge sum of taxpayer money per session.

    Well, the more sessions the more millions of dollars. 80 waterboard sessions in 30 days on a single defendant!!! That's more than 2 per day for 30 days. The Army propaganda wing proudly trotted out and stated in multiple public press releases that the Sheik was singing like a bird after he was Waterboarded.

    Its very clear after the lies and distortion, that waterboarding was a complete waste of taxpayer money and did nothing but make the defendants more defiant than they ever were.

    The public trial will likely reveal that the veteran FBI interrogation term left Cheney's handpicked blackwater torture wannabe's in utter disgust over their incompetence and tactics.

    Of course the Republican lawmakers are going to squeal like pigs as more of their dirty and disgusting behaviors are revealed to fellow Americans and the World.

    A. Smith

    November 13, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  16. Jamie

    This is the most open and transparent means we can try criminals in America with any modicum of justice or fairness. My question to all this opposition is either you don't trust our judicial system or you want them being tried with the verdict already decided by military officials (they maybe judges and lawyers but are still military officials). We are America and our justice system has to be maintained on the side of fairness and blind justice.

    November 13, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  17. Paul

    Why do the GOP have such little faith in the American justice system? The thought of these murderous fools locked up in a supermax with some genuinely scary people is one that warms my heart.

    November 13, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  18. Barbara Independent in NY

    This is another mess left to a different administration to clean up. Any decision would be met with criticism from the opposition. And I usually don't comment about anyone else's comment, but I feel I must. Bush did not keep us safe. 9/11 happened because his administration chose to ignore intelligence reports. 9/11 happened on his watch.

    November 13, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  19. Paul from Phoenix

    To Connie:

    McVeigh was an AMERICAN terrorist, hence he was afforded his day under the US Constitution.

    These people are enemy combatants, POW's, whatever you want to call them...and if they are not going to be tried in the military tribunals (where they should be), then they should be tried in the international courts.

    Forget the results of the trial (which will take years, as any good defense attorney will immediately request multiple venue changes), Holder is giving these terrorists the ability to make a mockery of our system in a very public forum (think about the Manson trial, or the OJ case).

    Moreover, when these defendants are in court, there is nothing from screaming anything they want. Security will be a nightmare, and don't be shocked to see many attempts to hinder the trial, most likely in a physical manner (bomb, guns). This is going to be a disaster.

    November 13, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  20. Independent

    No matter what Obama does they will complain....blah, blah,blah

    November 13, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  21. CW

    Hey Jay....and well pretty much anyone who thinks we shouldn't have rule of law in this case; we've been in lots of wars....and we've put people on TRIAL for war crimes, etc. going back to the revolution. Even when the English were torturing us, we afforded them better treatment and yes, Habius Corpus. You see, it's not liberal or conservative, it's's just kind of the way we roll! There is nothing new here, just politics as usual from the brainwashed/braindead right.

    November 13, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  22. Andre

    Just shoot them and be done with them. It would be much cheaper.

    November 13, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  23. Olivia, Atlanta

    For many years the DEA has been capturing Narcodealers in far away countries and bringing them to justice in US courts for promoting the smagling of drugs to America

    TheUS army even deposed a president –Noriega from Panama- for sponsoring drug business and he was brought to justice in US civil courts.

    The Oklahoma bomber, a terrorist, was also found guilty in a civil court.

    The WTC bomber was also found guilty in a civil US court

    So why don't let the US civil judiciary system do the work?

    November 13, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  24. Pat F

    Connie, are you really mentally incapable of understanding the difference between foreign terrorists picked up on foreign soil in the middle of an active war, and a American arrested in Oklahoma City?

    Or are you just part of the Obama "Apologize to the World" brigade, with the philosophy that America DESERVED September 11?

    I bet I can guess which.

    November 13, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  25. Independent

    I'm so tired of people saying Bush kept us safe...Stupid people 9-11 happened on his watch....Please shut the @#$@# up

    November 13, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
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