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. phoenix86

    The Obama adminstration appears to be more concerned with the rights of those who murder Americans than the victims or US citizens.

    What a sham we have elected.

    November 13, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  2. patsy

    Oh, I so love it when the Bush brigade claims "He kept us safe."

    "He kept us safe since 9/11"

    We were oh so safe ON 9/11, weren't we?

    Excuse me, but who was in charge ON 9/11?

    Who was it that LET IT HAPPEN?

    November 13, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  3. Ben

    Wow…are you guys serious? “This clearly proves that Obama and his gang are more concerned with the rights of terrorists than the rights of the American people”. I don’t think so. This proves that the administration cares about rights in general. Why do you people not understand that if you give away the fundamental ideals of America you are giving away the store? There is no point in militarily defending a nation that is built on ideas when the ideals are dead. The crimes these people committed were heinous and atrocious, but that does not mean that they are unequal in the eyes of the law. Hate them all you want, but you are talking about American freedom and the elements that make this country great, while condemning the administration for employing those freedoms.

    November 13, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  4. Former Republican

    It is unconscionable for the previous administration to have created the deplorable Gitmo in the first place with illegal torture policy that makes them no better than the terrorists we are fighting.

    Where were Sen. Cornyn's constant criticisms then?...

    Another reminder why I left the GOP. America is a nation of laws, which needs to be followed to regain our moral standing in the world.

    November 13, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  5. haren

    To republican and guys criticizing Eric holder.
    Don't make america BANANA REPUBLIC.

    November 13, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  6. worriedmom

    @ Connie
    McVeigh was an American citizen!

    I think this is horrific what Holder and President Obama is doing to the people. You will jeoparidize the good people of New York to satisfy the Radical Lefties!! And how much is this gonna cost as far as security, lawyers, etc. Of course Taxpayers once again will be paying for this scum.
    I don't understand why you would not want to protect our country.
    And I find it cold hearted that you are having good people that lost their loves one on 9/11 subjected to this all over again. It goes to prove no one you in this Evil Administration has a heart and love for the American people.
    Liberals you are to blame also on this.
    I pray nothing happens.

    What a nightmare!

    November 13, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  7. GI Joe

    Civilian Court for non-military

    Sounds like the correct court to me.

    Should Bush/Cheney be tried twice? Military for war crimes and then again in Civilian for the rest of their criminal activity?


    November 13, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  8. New York Double Attack Survivor

    The 02/26/93 bombers were tried in the same Manhattan courtroom and are serving life in prison. If it was good enough for them it should be good enough for the 9/11 attackers. What difference does it make where they are tried? If the evidence is as solid as we are told then they'll rot regardless of the trial venue. I suspect there is typical point scoring taking place here.

    November 13, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  9. Robert

    Do you people hear yourselves talking or are you deaf and dumb?
    Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?
    Are we a nation of fairness and do we kill someone simply because we think they did something, remember WMD charges got us into a mess so let us give them a fair trail and hope that the rest of the World will do the same for US Citizens who a charged aboard including the Military.

    Their is no right and wrong line to cross except the one that is drawn by one's own actions therefore we need to make sure the one we draw it in the right place!

    The saying that if a child is raised with hatred he will accept it as normal so why don't we try raising our children to be real Christians?
    Why don't we try to understand the real reason people are willing to kill and be killed and what we can do to help them understand we just want to be left alone and we should leave them alone to live whatever religion they want. We are not perfect and niether are they and I really doubt God would need either of us to kill each other if that is what he so desired to happen. Religion so many times is used by the weak to make themselves feel powerful as being part of something great but my God does not need man to execute his wil furthermore God made us unique because he did not want us to be the same so people quit trying to justify your ways by forcing them on others.

    November 13, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  10. Fnord-a-saurus Rex

    Why is this an issue? If there is ample evidence in the case, then there will be a guilty conviction. To all that are complaining about giving them the same rights as a citizen, it's just to show them that, even though they (may) hate are way of life, we are able to take the high road, and give them the rights that they really don't deserve.
    Why is it so bad to try and do the right thing? There will be less of a backlash form the Arab community if we do this the right way.

    Why do so many people insist on making huge issues out of nothing?
    Could it be becasue you are still salty cause your side lost the election? No couldn't be that ( read with sarcasm).
    it doesnt matter what Obama does, the GOP is hell bent on critisizing everything, as if thier policies didnt get us into these messes in the first place. Like the GOP could fix this in 10 months.

    Dont worry, all of you out there clamoring for death will probably get your wish.

    Now if we can get Cheney, Bush and Rumy on trial for war crimes for killing untold thousands of civillians in Iraq. Also for lying to the public, War profiteering, and sending us in to an ecomomic disaster.

    November 13, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  11. unshrub

    The biggest threats to our security are conservatives trying to undermine Obama every step of the way.

    November 13, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  12. OMG

    Well, I guess that speaks volumes about the fairness of our military judicial system. I guess the full rights of the Constitution applies to civilians only. Wow!

    November 13, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  13. unshrub


    Do you have any idea of what you are saying? You are so ignorant of the situation.

    November 13, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  14. hang em in public

    Kate, their are piles of dog poop with more intelligence than you. These aren't scare and fear tactics, we are at war with terrorism, even the great Obama believes that. Military prisoners should be tried in a military tribunal, and sentenced. The only possible reason I see to bring them to New York would be to hang them in Times Square for all of us to watch and cheer. I'm sure if you lost someone you loved in that terrorist attack you would probably care a little less about there rights and the ACLU's BS little games, and more about justice. As to you're comment about republicans, I am an independant however, try being informed instead of opinionated, you will find the truth much more rewarding, however it may shatter your political views a bit!!

    November 13, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  15. gary

    The GOP will be quiet as soon as they look at the polling data. The American people want this trial in NY.

    November 13, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  16. T. Williams

    PEOPLE, Stop attacking the President, someone who is actually well versed in the constitution. Besides, think about it, in civilian court with a jury they will most certainly be put to death. The average American would put these people to death, so the arguments from the Right are what, that Americans are too stupid to finish the job. I also think it would be cathartic for the people of New York to be able to hand down a GUILTY verdict.
    Obama could literally hand Osama Bin Laden over and the Right would find a way to criticize how he did it, or that he had him hidden and was biding his time, I'm sorry but it is obvious that their party has been hijacked by the religious mentally challenged who think it's ok for the Westboro Church to protest outside the Obama childrens school with signs that read "GOD HATES YOU."

    November 13, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  17. W l Jones

    We American live all over world be careful what one wish it might come back to haught you.

    November 13, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  18. Bill

    I can't help but be amused when the paranoid right freaks out over 5 (yes, FIVE) humans are brought to American soil to stand trial. Oh, look, the sky is falling, too!

    Anyone who seriously believes that the terrorists will be simply let go aren't using logic. They're just paranoid and want to gripe about Obama and Democrats any way they can. If these people are guilty, they will be found guilty. If they're not guilty, for goodness sake, let them go.

    Terrorists don't even need to do anything to the U.S. any more. The paranoid right has done enough damage by itself.

    November 13, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  19. machtim akannah

    These bastards, muslim terrorists (there I said it), should have been publicly beheaded, the same sentence which would have been meted out in the muslim world. Moving to a civilian court allows certain evidence against them to be discounted. Just more dithering by the administration. Obama has forgotten, if he ever knew at all, that his FIRST and ONLY loyalty is to the United States. Schmuck.

    November 13, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  20. CBR

    We must try these terrorists here in the United States. Are we so fearful that we cannot do what is necessary? We are sending our men and women into harms way and have done so for 8 years. Yet, we are frightened that trying terrorists on American soil will be wrong. Just where would you have the trial held? Perhaps in another country so those citizens will be subjected to your fears.

    The atrocities were committed on American soil. These men should have been tried long before this. Now that the Obama administration is making decisions those who do not agree with their politics are once again second-guessing the administration.

    The same people write every time and they bring up extraneous points which have nothing to do with the story.

    November 13, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  21. Anthony McMahon-Illinois

    Actually treating them like "common criminals" is conscionable because it validates our system of laws and our culture. We did that with the Nazis at the end of WWII because we did not want to be viewed in the same light as they were. The rule of law makes us who we are.

    This is why I don't vote for Repubs anymore. They're really stupid and nuts.

    November 13, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  22. Lori, Houston Texas

    Why are Republicans and Conservatives so afraid of our law based society? For some reason these people would rather shoot first and forget about asking any questions. That's not what our Constitution demands of us. So, when y'all go around yelling "I want my country back, what is it you actually want? To go back to pre-Magna Carta days when the King and the Church had all the power and the rest of us were lowly serfs? Because, if that's true, y'all should be screaming about the control Corporations have over our lawmakers. Don't be afraid of having trials for these people in America because, if you really believe in the supreme power of America, you'd be proud to show the world exactly WHY we are the shining beacon on a hill.

    November 13, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  23. OK

    Comparisons to McVeigh is not apt. McVeigh was an American and was acting in concert with other Americans. The 911 terrorists were not Americans and were acting in concert with foreign terrorist organizations. The laws and protections of the State and Federal Constitutions are guaranteed to American citizens, not foreign combatants. Under the Geneva Pact, America promised military tribunals for war crimes. Not only are we flaunting the Constitution, but also America's sovereign promises.

    November 13, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  24. Grant

    Connie - McVeigh was a US citizen. There is a difference.

    November 13, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  25. Mix

    Timmothy McVeigh was not, by definition, a "terrorist". He was a murderer. And he was an American citizen found guilty of murder by his peers. These "suspects" are outright terrorists and should be treated as such. Can't wait til the ACLU pipes in about their "rights"

    November 13, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
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