November 13th, 2009
01:07 PM ET
10 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. Mike in MN

    Foreign terrorists don't deserve to be treated as US citizens. They are prisoners of war and possible war criminals. The fact that Obama and his administration don't know the difference or do not care about the difference is more than disturbing. Obama is not fit to be commander in chief.

    November 13, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  2. bob

    I think while we are at it we should allow these people to qualify for the new Obamacare

    November 13, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  3. Troy

    They are common criminals, John. Treating them like something special is unconscionable. Try them, convict them, and toss them in Gen-Pop or fry them like any other killer. Don't give al Qaeda the satisfaction of being of greater overall import to the world than a carjacker.

    November 13, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  4. JT the show me state College Freshman

    People here need to understand the law and legal issues in realation with due process. Technically, yes, they are quilty beyond a shadow of a doubt, but until we try them and find them guilty for sure, the law says that they are not guilty. Personally, I think that these extremists are good for nothing low lifs, but everyone deserves a fair trail. Lets hurry up and try them, so they can be found guilty already. The faster we try them like the law says, the faster we can lock them up or get rid of them for good.

    November 13, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  5. mjm

    O.K. Liberals.....let's take a quiz:

    McVeigh was from a citizen of what country?
    A. USA
    B. All the Above

    The Constitution applies to citizens of what country?
    A. USA
    B. All the Above

    Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is a citizen of the USA.
    A. True
    B. False

    US Federal Court applies to....?
    A. US citizens.

    November 13, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  6. Calling it like it is

    This story, as well as a large number of the comments on it, only help to prove what most reasonable people realized in 2008, and that is that the GOP and its voter base have gone completely insane this decade. They have become dangerously delusional, some even hoping to see America destroyed just so they can blame it on the current leadership and feel vindicated for their inexplicable adherence to the criminal methods of the previous administration. They lack the magnanimity to understand and admit when they are wrong. The GOP base are the real terrorists in our country right now. If the Islamic extremists wanted to change our nation for the worse, then they have succeeded. The far right proves each and every day that they are very much the monsters they have been made out to be. And no shame either. Its sickeningly ironic that the same people who spat at anyone who didn't vehemently love our nation under Bush would now show so much hate for it.

    November 13, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  7. Mike in MN

    This is so wrong I can no longer even attempt to respect Obama as the President of the United States. These terrorists are prisoners of war and the only trial they should have a trial if any is under a military tribunal. This is so wrong and un American it makes me sick.

    November 13, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  8. once upon a horse

    Republicans blasting a decision by the Obama administration....ok this is NOT news. When they agree with him and back him on something..ANYTHING then to me that would be news.

    November 13, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  9. BigSky1970

    They aren't American, so why should they be held to the same standard as citizens of the United States who are protected by the Constitution. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights doesn't recognize foreigners.

    November 13, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  10. WAW

    Finally the United States of America stands for justice, liberty and the American Way. This nation was a nation of laws until the Republican coup of Bush/Chaney. Thank God that we have men who stand up to the Republican political crap and say NO!

    November 13, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  11. Pete

    You aren't allowed to execute Prisoners of War, by the by.

    November 13, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  12. Pete from NOLA

    They dropped the ball on this one. This is a bad idea. It may suit these academic lawyers that Obama has in his admin- maybe they can write papers on it when they return to their teaching positions at Law Schools......These terrorsits should be tried in military courts. That's the way it is supposed to work.

    November 13, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  13. Obama = WORST president EVER

    Terrorists are for shooting, not for trying in a civilian court.

    Unfortunately, elections have consequences....and liberals elected an idiot as president.

    November 13, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  14. Mary L.

    I am just blown away by the stupidity of the people in charge in Washington DC to have civilian trials for war criminals and then to hold them in New York City....I have to wonder if any of the "Top Minds", and I use the term loosely, are thinking.....Shame on all of them

    November 13, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  15. Jeff

    Simply amazing, people keep suckling on the presidents teet.

    Simple enough, these men commited war crimes, they should be judged as such.

    One thing I don't see anyone talk about, what about the safety of anyone involved in a public trial? Jury, security, attorney's, etc. We may be putting innocent lives at risk with this.

    November 13, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  16. bob

    Access to quality health care is a god given right. These people never thought they would be held prisoner for their terrorist acts. They did not plan to ever have to rely on the American system of health care. Write to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and demand that they are grandfathered in to any bill that Obama signs

    November 13, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  17. mario mtl ca

    I remember a banner ' we will never forget ' so whats the problem to trial these guys where is should be, remembered them no we haven't forget

    November 13, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  18. magella

    So many stupid posts, so I'll just pick on a simple one:
    Larry S November 13th, 2009 2:02 pm ET
    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.
    How to be a Republican, 2009 edition

    Rule #1: name calling (complete with misspelling)
    Rule #2: "clever" plays on Obama's name (other popular variations include "Obummer" and "Osama")
    Rule #3: nod of gratitude to Bush

    Only problem is the truth in the last sentence. No, Larry, Obama cannot come close to the "leadership" offered by George Bush. 9/11 happened on his watch; his unjustified wars (one in the wrong country) have cost the lives of thousands more Americans and people around the world; he has violated the civil rights of thousands, if not millions...need I go on?

    November 13, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |

    judging by the polls the democrats are toast in the next election. Listening to liberals say that putting these animals on trial upholds the best traditions of america. i cant believe what im reading. i thought liberals were just misguided, but now i see that you are a danger for this country. the majority of americans are sick and tired of your self-described righteousness and condesention towards the rest of us. I actually have more respect for the terrorists. at least they declare who they are and what they want. you liberals are traitors. you give aid and comfort to our enemies. as far as most of us conservatives are concerned the dialog and debate with you candy assees is over. it is time for you to be treated as traitors should be. SIC SEMPER TYRANNUS

    November 13, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  20. Todd

    Calling all terrorists, calling all terrorists, your new place of jihad is now New York City, ,,thanks mr. president!

    November 13, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  21. slp

    Timothy McVeigh was an American citizen. WHERE ELSE WAS HE GOING TO BE TRIED? Obama supporters are idiots.

    November 13, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  22. Dan, TX

    What kind of WIMP is afraid of these criminals?

    November 13, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  23. Cheryl - Tampa FL

    Today is Nov 13th, 2009 – I am watching Hardball w/Chris Matthews and he asked a very interesting question. He asked "why are the trying "Khalid Sheikh Mohammed" in a Federal court instead of a military court. The Republican counterpart of this conversation, sorry folks can't remember his name, said that they can call Darth Vadar, I mean Dick Cheney, and others to testify about "WATER BOARDING" this guy over 80 times to the point he would confess to anything. Chris Matthews is worried that the truth about this war will come out, the Right Wing Republicans are worried that that truth will come out, and the Liberal Right Wings are happy the truth will come out. Doesn't anyone really want to know the truth about 9/11?

    This man was picked up as a person who worked for his government like many people do. What if Iran tries those 3 hikers in court that they are connected somehow to the governement of the USA CIA and that they are to be put on trial for espionage. Would this be okay with the American people? Let the truth come out and "SHUTUP!" to what you don't know.

    November 13, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  24. catmom

    WOW, listening to the Republicans running to the microphone and reading comments on the various blogs, the American justice system must really suck. The confidence in these people in their fellow citizens to do the right thing is zilch. Boy, is this country in bad shape. Of course blacks have been saying that the Justice system was biased but no one would give them the time of day. Perhaps now people will believe them now since so many Republican leaders and citizens are saying that we can't possibly allow the civilian court to try these people and handle them. In fact, I think we should be afraid, very afraid because our justice system has tried, convicted and is holding a lot of very scary awful humans who have committed horrendous crimes. Message from Republicans: BE AFRAID, BE VERY AFRAID. DON'T BELIEVE THE CITIZENS OF NEW YORK CAN DO THIS JUSTICE. THEY ARE STUPID. BLAME IT ON OBAMA. WE WANT OBAMA TO FAIL.......

    November 13, 2009 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
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