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Senators: No Civilian Trials For 9/11 Conspirators

February 3, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Two Senate Democrats are teaming up with Sen. Lindsey Graham [R, SC] to torpedo President Obama’s plan to try 9/11 co-conspirators in civilian court.

The president last November announced plans to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other co-defendants in lower Manhattan. Though, after objections were raised by lawmakers in both parties and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the administration now says no final decision has been made on the location of the trials.

But location isn’t the main issue for Graham. He doesn’t want Mohammed or any other alleged 9/11 conspirators to have a civilian trial in the first place.

At a press conference yesterday, Graham and eight other senators including Sen. Jim Webb [D, VA], Sen. Blanche Lincoln [D, AR] and Sen. Joe Lieberman [I, CT] announced legislation (S.2977) banning government dollars from going toward any civilian trial for the five alleged 9/11 conspirators. Graham pushed a similar amendment (S.Amdt.2669) last year but it was rejected by the Senate in a 54-45 vote.

Graham believes it would be dangerous and unprecedented to afford Mohammed these rights under the Constitution:

Military commissions are the proper venue for the trial of KSM and the other 9/11 conspirators. Civilian trials, which the Obama Administration has proposed, will be unnecessarily dangerous, legally messy, confusing to our own troops who fight and capture terrorists on the battlefield, and very expensive. Also, at the end of the day, do we really want to give KSM the biggest microphone in the world to spread his message of hate?

In a statement released yesterday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Pat Leahy [D, VT] disagrees:

Federal courts have proven time and again that they are capable of handling terrorism cases. They have successfully tried hundreds of terrorism cases… In stark contrast to that record, very few of the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay have been brought to justice through military commissions.

Webb, Lincoln and Lieberman, along with Sen. Maria Cantwell [D, WA] and Sen. Mark Pryor [D, AR], joined all 40 Senate Republicans in supporting Graham’s previous amendment. Pryor is a co-sponsor of Graham’s new bill, but it’s currently unknown if Cantwell will do so as well. But even with her support, more Democrats will be needed to wrangle 60 votes.

Another interesting wrinkle is that instead of civilian trials, the bill would require the 9/11 conspirators to be tried by military tribunals at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Should it become law, the measure would make it impossible for President Obama to fulfill his promise to close the camp.

Though Obama missed his deadline to close Gitmo by Jan. 22 of this year, he is clearly still trying to close the facility. His recently released budget, for example, includes $237 million to purchase the Thompson Correctional Center in northern Illinois as a new home for the detainees. Also included in Obama’s proposed budget is $200 million to help pay for security for so-call “terror trials.”

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Comments

  • oledoc 02/03/2010 11:14am

    COULD NOT HAVE SAID IT BETTER MYSELF! COME ON LETS PASS THIS BILL
    EVERYONE E-MAIL THEIR SENATORS..

    Military commissions are The proper venue for the trial of KSM and the other 9/11 conspirators. Civilian trials, which the Obama Administration has proposed, will be unnecessarily dangerous, legally messy, confusing to our own troops who fight and capture terrorists on the battlefield, and very expensive. Also, at the end of the day, do we really want to give KSM the biggest microphone in the world to spread his message of hate?

  • Comm_reply
    nmeagent 02/06/2010 6:42am

    Do we really want to set the precedent that anyone designated as an enemy combatant is no longer afforded the rights belonging to all human beings? Is it too much of a stretch for American citizens to be so designated and detained indefinitely? Oh, wait, they’ve tried that haven’t they? Too late I guess.

    If you want war powers, declare war. Don’t just ignore the rule of law and
    continue to do whatever the hell you want.

  • spender 02/04/2010 4:57am

    “…unnecessarily dangerous, legally messy, confusing to our own troops who fight and capture terrorists on the battlefield, and very expensive.”

    Ha! Maybe we should look at all violent acts that occur within the US and decide whether they’re too “legally messy,” “confusing,” and “expensive” to bother prosecuting after the fact.

    Actually, this is good. Since Scott Roeder had a couple of phone numbers of Operation Rescue operatives on him, we should grab all of them and have the military try the whole group for conspiracy. All Congress has to do is declare Tiller’s murder to be off limits for federal money, and we can nix any Constitutional protections and finally destroy Operation Rescue.

    One could argue that the 5th amendment clearly prohibits this sort of thing, but now that I see all sorts of possibilities for getting rid of people I don’t like, I’ll overlook it.

  • nmeagent 02/06/2010 6:36am

    Too late, Graham, alleged terrorists (and everyone else) already have these rights. The Constitution can neither grant nor take away a natural right belonging to all human beings. This fallacious “we can’t grant the terrorists Constitutional rights!” argument keeps more otherwise liberty-minded Republicans and Democrats in the pro-detention, pro-military tribunal, and pro-torture camps than any other. If only they would make this necessary mental leap (I did, eventually…) and end their support, perhaps we could stop this atrocious behavior once and for all.

    Try them all in civilian courts! Military tribunals and indefinite detention are illegal unless accompanied by a legal declaration of war. The AUMF is anything but, as Congress cannot delegate its Constitutional powers to another branch of government.

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