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Holder, Gates Oppose Congressional Ban On Terror Trials

February 26, 2010 - by Eric Naing

The heads of the Pentagon and the Justice Department have urged House leaders to reject any legislation preventing the government from prosecuting alleged terrorists in civilian courts or military commissions.

As I mentioned earlier, a bipartisan coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats are pushing a House (H.R.4556) and Senate bill (S.2977) that would prevent government dollars from being spent on civilian trials for five alleged 9/11 co-conspirators including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter yesterday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D, CA-8] and House Republican leader John Boehner [R, OH-8] saying that such action is unnecessary since numerous terrorists have already been tried in both civilian and military courts with implicit Congressional approval.

They also argue that the legislation would be an unprecedented infringement on the powers and duties of their two departments:

The exercise of prosecutorial discretion has always been and should remain an Executive branch function. We believe it would be unwise and would set a dangerous precedent for Congress to restrict the discretion of our Departments to carry out specific terrorism prosecutions.

Indeed, we have been unable to identify any precedent in the history of our nation in which Congress has intervened in such a manner to prohibit the prosecution of particular persons or crimes.

Greg Sargent has the letter, which you can read here.

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