November 16th, 2009
04:06 PM ET
9 months ago

CNN Poll: Americans want KSM tried in military court

Washington (CNN) – Two-thirds of Americans disagree with the Obama administration's decision to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed in a civilian court rather than a military court, according to a new national poll.

But six in 10 people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday say that the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks should be tried in the United States, as the administration plans to do, rather than at a U.S. facility in another country.

The poll indicates that 64 percent believe Mohammed should be tried in military court, with 34 percent suggesting that he face trial in civilian court. Six in 10 people questioned say Mohammed should be tried stateside, with 37 percent calling for the trial to take place at a U.S. facility in another country.

"The decision to bring Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in front of a civilian court is universally unpopular - even a majority of Democrats and liberals say that he should be tried by military authorities," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Despite that, most Americans say that he will get a fair trial in the U.S."


Mohammed is one of five Guantanamo Bay detainees with alleged ties to the 9/11 attacks that will be tried in civilian court in New York.
"After eight years of delay, those allegedly responsible for the attacks of September 11 will finally face justice," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Friday.

Mohammed, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Walid bin Attash, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi will all be transferred to the Southern District of New York - a few blocks from where the World Trade Center towers stood prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks.

What should happen if Mohammed is found guilty?

"Nearly eight in 10 favor the death penalty if that happens - including one in five who say they normally oppose the death penalty, but would support it in this case," adds Holland.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted November 13-15, with 1,014 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the overall sample.

Full results (pdf)

–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report


Filed under: CNN poll • Khalid Sheik Mohammed
soundoff (133 Responses)
  1. Ethan

    This is about sending a signal to other terrorists out there that THEY. WILL. NEVER. WIN.

    If we try them in the American judicial system we can take the moral high ground and show the world that we are not only the strongest nation in the world by military might, but we are the most fair and most humane.

    Of course, the neocon GOP isn't interested in being fair or humane. I mean cmon, they started a $1 TRILLION war of choice in Iraq for no reason. So......... so who cares what they think?

    Btw, I am a 4th generation New Yorker who saw the towers fall with my own eyes, not on TV, and I've wanted JUSTICE for 8 LONG YEARS. I want them tried in NYC –ASAP– just as I did on 9/12.

    November 16, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  2. Mark

    Poll: Only a liberal no mind would think its a good idea to bring a terrorist to civilian court. Whats next the movie?

    November 16, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  3. Susan, Macedon New York

    Although I'm concerned about security for NYC, not to mention the media frenzy this is going to cause (God Help us if they televise the trial!!!), I think AG Holder made the right decision.

    The US has been totally hypocritical about holding prisoners without trial for this long. We're supposed to be a country with a system of laws. Let the law work and let the US regain some of it's stature in the world.

    November 16, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  4. George W. Bush = Worst President Ever

    Americans need to have faith in our constitution and our judicial system. Even Rudy 'the flip flopper' thought he trials should be handled by civilian court a few years ago.

    November 16, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  5. Frank, Las Vegas

    Why are there so many that don't have faith in our justice system? A system that has worked for over 200 years. It also seems like an awful lot of the GOP group, those who always wrap themselves in the flag, now don't have faith in our justice system. These people should stop their fear spreading tactics and come together over our justice system. Come on out, you don't have to be afraid., really.

    November 16, 2009 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  6. Jim

    my take on this is:

    if he is tried in a military court, we acknowledge that he is a soldier.
    and he is, then, likely to be shot if convicted ... and will then be viewed as a martyr.

    if he is tried in a civilian court, we acknowledge that he is a civilian who slaughtered many innocent people/women/children (if convicted) ... which the q'uran forbids. let him sit in jail for the rest of his life with bubba for his cell mate. so much for being viewed as a martyr.

    November 16, 2009 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  7. JES

    It's nothing but politics. You need to wake up and see you are painting a traget on the city of New York haven't they had enough.

    We were attacked and the military should have the trials.

    November 16, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  8. andy

    Just another example that Obama and his staff have no clue on how to run things. Run around playing politics, trying to please all the liberal idiots, and his only success comes from a teleprompter. America is in trouble.

    November 16, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  9. Jeremy-Dallas-Tx

    Oh Oh Oh cry babies! Why did you arrest them if you can't presecute them? Why prosecute them if you can't jail them? BTW, Bush (Republican president) invaded Iraq and admitted Iraq refugees into this country enmasse. How sure was he that some of them are not Al-qaida guys or future recruits? Have you ever changed tires at Tire centers? They man them especially here at Dallas where I live. A close chat with them is that they don't like what we did in Iraq. They are bitter.

    November 16, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  10. I am the Not-So-Great and Powerless Wizard of Rush

    So the majority of Americans question the strength of our judicial institutions – We have a very fragile democracy.

    November 16, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  11. Stu

    Terrorism is not a typical "crime" suited to be tried in a normal civilian court. These psycopaths are not entitled to Constitutional protections, nor trial in a civilian court. What's worse, in our prisons they would have a captive audience of anti-social, anti-American common criminals who would be easily swayed to their cause. Wake up sheeple. This is war, plain and simple.

    November 16, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  12. Sgt. USMC

    Justice will be served America... suck it up and let the courts do their jobs. One thing is for certain, people will always have something to complain about. If this was such a security risk then why was it not taken care of years ago. President Obama is doing things that the bush crapministration couldn't do. Things are changing people, KEEP UP OR SHUT UP!!!

    OBAMA 2012

    November 16, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  13. They call me "tater salad"

    I guess when CNN has nothing relevant to report on, they conduct a bazillion and one, polls to try to sway public opinion to the right! Welcome to the new Fox- lite! Not that great tasting, but, quite filling!!

    November 16, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  14. George W. Bush = Worst President Ever

    Only a wingnut would think our constitution, our bill of rights, and our judicial system will not work.

    November 16, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  15. Kathy

    What is Obama and the White House thinking? Just ask the relatives and friends of those murdered on 9/11 what they think. I believe that Obama should listen to them and what they think. Will he then change his mind, or just continue to be focused on his own self.

    November 16, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  16. Gary

    Of course we do! We want that bastard in Gitmo facing a military court then executed. The idea of bringing him to NYC is dumb. We were hoping for change but what we got was a dumb President. Can we impeach him?

    November 16, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  17. C Spurgeon

    I think maybe we have too many polls. The media is beginning to sound a little wacko.

    November 16, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  18. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert but.....

    Come on, people, we lead the world in locking people up. What makes you think our justice system is going to drop the ball now? Have a nice day!

    November 16, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  19. STU-PID

    Wasn't Timothy McVeigh a terrorist?

    November 16, 2009 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  20. John, Brooklyn, NY

    The irrational right doesn't get it. The Bush Administration effectively argued that these people NOT be defined as military combatants so that they wouldn't be given rights under the Geneva Convention. Trying these people under the criminal system is not only consistent with precedent (e.g. 90's terrorists) its also consistent with the Bush Administration's policy as well.

    Gee. Amazing how remarkably silent Dick Cheney is on this one.

    November 16, 2009 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  21. STU-PID

    Fox and Glenn Beck know that our constitution does not apply all the time.

    November 16, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  22. Al Holz

    It's about time we as American took our heads out of the sand and realize that although the attack on the World Trade Center Towers on 9/11 happened in America it was trully an attack against the world! Have we forgotten that almost evry nation in the world was represented in the two towers. How can we exclude the rest of the world from thier opertunity to achieve justice for thier respective countries? A Military trial with Military represenitives from each of the counties that were represented in the World Trade Center Towers on the Jury is the only way to proceed. It should be held in non-US court, like in Russia or Isreal. Or a non – radical / zelet muslim nation. Think about it!

    November 16, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  23. Dean

    And I used to believe Bush was stupid. Obama's decisions make Bush look like Einstein.

    November 16, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  24. Obama = Worst Dictatorial president ever.

    Only a Marxist Comrade would think our constitution, our bill of rights, and our judicial system should be extended to a terrorist who's attack killed more people than Pearl Harbor.

    November 16, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  25. Beverly in NC

    I support President Obama's decision completely. This terrorist was one of the man planners of 9/11 and he committed his crime in New York City. The terrorists who attacked the WTC in 1993 were tired in our normal courts and sit safely confined in our prison system

    By processing the remaing detainees left at Gitmo, we can empty the place and close it. President Obama is taking exactly the right approach to acheive justice and get Gitmo closed for good.

    Republicans whine and try to make Americans fear everything. They have no solutions to offer and could handle a single crisis President Obama is dealing with if their lives depended on it. Those who can't do anything – just complain about the intelligent people making decisions and working hard to restore our country.

    What have Republicans done this entire year? NOTHING. They are just a hate and fear group who will be wiped out of Congress in 2010. Their obstructionism and negativity has backfired on them.

    November 16, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6