November 15th, 2009
03:40 PM ET
10 years ago

Debate on 9/11 trial follows partisan divide

Washington (CNN) - Fearlessly demonstrating the majesty of U.S. justice or acquiescing to terrorists by giving them undeserved rights and a public platform?

The decision to bring Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, admitted mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks, and five other suspects to a New York courtroom, rather than a military tribunal, was described in stark contrasts Sunday by politicians on opposing sides of the political spectrum.

Democrats hailed Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to try the men in a civilian court as a demonstration of America's might and moral certainty, while Republicans called it a bad idea based on politics rather than pragmatism.

"We have a judicial system that's the envy of the world," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont said on the CBS program "Face the Nation." "I don't think we should run and hide and cower. Let's use our system."

But Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire countered on the CNN program "State of the Union," why give foreign terrorists at war with the United States the full judicial rights of U.S. citizens?

"These people are evil people," Gregg said of the defendants. "They represent a cause which wants to destroy this nation. If they have the opportunity and were to get free, they would try to destroy this country. There's no reason we should have them in the criminal justice system."

Former New York Major Rudy Giuliani, considered a possible GOP presidential candidate in 2012, called military tribunals created for terrorists such as Mohammed who have been held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a better alternative than a civilian court.

Military tribunals are "a better choice for the government," Giuliani said on FOX News Sunday. "This choice of New York is a better choice for the terrorists. Why would you seek to give the terrorists a better choice than you're giving the public?"

In a separate interview on CNN's "State of the Union," Giuliani noted that a New York court trial would cause unnecessary stress and expense for the city's police force.

"Anyone that tells you that this doesn't create additional security problems, of course, isn't telling you the truth," Giuliani said. "And the best indication of it is, just look at the additional security that's going to be employed when this happens. That also happens to cost millions and millions and millions of dollars."

Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, warned that bringing the alleged terrorists to New York raised the risk of further attacks on the United States.

"Why move them into the United States while we are still under the threat from radical jihadists?" Hoekstra asked on the CBS program.

However, Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island noted on "FOX News Sunday" that scores of terrorism suspects were successfully prosecuted in civilian courts under the Bush Administration.

"So what was a statesmanlike decision by the Bush administration can't be a political decision by this administration," Reed said.

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soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Surfer Dude

    Legal Question? Since Eric Holder's law firm, where he was a partner, (Covington and Burling LLC) is defending 16-17 of the GITMO detainees, pro bono, is it a conflict of interest for him to make any decision on GITMO detainees?

    November 15, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  2. Ivan

    What are the Republicans really afraid of? Is it the rule of law or that they want to scare us into believing that our security is a risk, without the draconion measures of taking away the rights stated in Our Constitution.

    November 15, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  3. John, Brooklyn, NY

    The Republiacns are trying to have it both ways. The Bush Administration argued to the Supreme Court that the detainees were not military combatants, presumably in order to deny them rights afforded to them under the Geneva Convention.

    However, now that the precedent has been established that they are to be treated as private individuals rather than prisoners of war, the Republicans want to put them through the military court system because it has a lower standard of evidenec and presumption of guilt.

    We are a nation of laws. Its strange that the Republicans, who pride themselves on being the party of "law and order" apparently doesn't trust our justice system.

    November 15, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  4. Sharon

    If we are scared to try them in the U.S., then we should not have captured them. Try them, sentence them to death, and for God's sake let the families of 911 have closure!

    What are we afraid of?

    November 15, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  5. ib

    This is dumb period. It will only be a circus and a way for the far left liberals to keep blaming Bush and covering up their failures. If some get hurt due to an attack only Obama can blamed. This should have been done by the military. Pathetic!!!!

    November 15, 2009 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  6. Michael

    Opening his mouth shows that Ghouliani is still an idiot. Does'nt he have a wife to cheat on or something?

    Funny how we were able to try the nazis in an open court but the Repubs can't seem to understand that. The real truth is they are fearing more embarrassing revelations about the war-crimes of the Bush administration.

    November 15, 2009 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  7. DawnL,CA

    No, the debate is not following a partisan divide. I'm an independent(former dem.) & I think Holder might as well paint a bulls-eye on the Federal bldg. where the terrorists will be tried. Haven't New Yorkers gone through enough?
    The military should handle the trial in Guantamamo with cameras. The terrorists do not deserve a platform to rant on about America in America. What was Holder thinking? This is just a ploy to appease our so-called friends in Europe.

    November 15, 2009 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  8. Gerry

    Brining these 5 terrorist to the US for trial is idiotic. This could bring terrorist to the city. Much of the city will be closed down for years as all of the appeals are made again and again. It will cost 10 of millions to do this. The US wants to let the world how fare the court system in the US but it is not if you have a goood lawyer and money, and I am sure these terrorist willhave both. Senator Reed said that if they won the US would still detain these terrorist. Is that fair? The whole idea makes no sence except political sence.

    November 15, 2009 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  9. Jorgor Barrie

    The OBABA Adminusteration is just following and implementing the RULE OF LAW to the letter. The BUSH 43 Administeration NEVER DID! That's the DIFFERENCE here people.

    November 15, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  10. John

    Of course we should try them here. This is America. Playing by the rules is what we do.

    November 15, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  11. Hopeful in America

    A crime of this magnitude deserves a trial on American soil. Our system of justice works and this is the opportunity to prove that to the world.

    So what if the defendants use it as a stage? That will expose their beliefs for being what they are...faulty.

    November 15, 2009 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  12. Mickey

    (9/11) Who does (9/11) Giuliani think he's (9/11) fooling (9/11)? He's no more (9/11) moderate than Boehner (9/11) is. He should (9/11) crawl back into his (9/11) hole, and stay there...


    November 15, 2009 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  13. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    Republicans, who are absolutely, unequivocally AGAINST this decision only show their fear and lack of faith.
    Fear of being found out – as war mongering profiteers. As failures to use and believe in the law, both American and International. As the party of "NO."
    Lack of Faith in our Constitution, our Federal prisons system, our Criminal justice system and our citizens.

    For their picture of events to become reality, every one of the above, in succession, would have to fail us. If Republicans are so CERTAIN that some kind of failure is an unavoidable outcome, what does that say about their values?

    There area lot of Stupid, gullible Americans out there, but most Republicans "don't have time" to serve in our juries, so getting a conviction, with good evidence, given to a fair jury shouldn't be too difficult.

    November 15, 2009 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  14. Rob

    You can't win with the GOP. If the administration had decided to to hold military trials then they would be crying about that.It is obvious that the only plan they have is to cry about every decision made, hoping that something will stick to cause the fall of the present party in power. I'm hoping that the American people are smarter than that . What they should be doing is helping solve the current crisis facing their country, but sadly instead all they do is put roadblocks up. Why is it that the only suggestions they have is to cut taxes for the rich and business but nothing for the middle class, why don't they want health care for all , why do they claim that they want government out of their lives but feel that they have the right to tell women what they should do with their bodies

    November 15, 2009 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  15. JonDie

    There is a partisan divide, between those of us who believe in America...and Republicans, who are the enemies of our country, our history and our traditions.

    November 15, 2009 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  16. Mike, formerly from Syracuse

    The issue isn't security, it's convicting these vermin. This was a war crime, not a domestic crime. A military tribunal has much less demanding rules of evidence, hence a much higher probability of conviction and execution. If any of this scum walk due to a civilian trial, Obama should be impeached!

    November 15, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  17. Danny

    What are the republican chest thumpers afraid of? All this macho bravado to send our soldiers to war, and they're afraid to try terrorists in a court of laws? They have so little faith in our laws and our constitution that they're quivering like schoolgirls. Militiary tribunals have proven to been a boondoggle – over 200 terrorists have been successfully tried and convicted in our federal courts – and only a handful have been through the military tribunals.

    It's a shame to see that these self-proclaimed "real patriots" have so little faith in our consitution, our laws, and in the resiliency of New Yorkers and Americans. Bush and cheney tried to destroy it, but we are still a nation of laws.

    November 15, 2009 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  18. Fitz in Texas

    Anyone who believes that this was Eric Holder's decision alone, and not Obama's, to bring Khalid Sheikh Mohommed and the rest of the terrorists to this country to stand trial is a fool. This has Obama's blessing all over it.

    So, who will be the jury of their peers......terrorists.

    November 15, 2009 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  19. thersa

    Why are conservatives such cowards?

    November 15, 2009 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  20. CAW in MD

    The fact is the Bush administration dropped the ball big time on this issue. They didn't get a legal framework in place to make the military tribunals credible, and then they tainted any future trials with the idiotic resort to torture. The result is a compromise of American values by having a class of prisoner at Guantanamo that we can't try and we can't release.

    The Republicans crying about this decision is pretty much the height of hypocrisy. They had a chance to solve this problem, completely bungled it, and now are complaining that somebody is making a decision. They just wish they had the intestinal fortitude Obama has.

    November 15, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  21. They call me "tater salad"

    These people act like we're going to let him fly his own plane to the trial! Get over yourselves already and calm down people, it's not that big of a deal, unless you allow someone to make you think it is!.....Smart-n-up!

    November 15, 2009 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  22. gary

    The talking GOP parrots are disengenuinious. I have never heard their arguments on any other case. But now they are scared or it would be too painful to have a trial? No wonder more and more people won't admit to being a Republican.

    November 16, 2009 08:00 am at 8:00 am |