American Morning

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November 19th, 2009
06:00 AM ET

Is it weakness to try terrorists in civilian court?

By Carol Costello and Ronni Berke

Should alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed be tried in a civilian court?

He’s been linked to a virtual smorgasbord of terror crimes, among them: September 11th, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1995 attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II, and the gruesome killing of journalist Daniel Pearl.

Critics question the decision of Attorney General Eric Holder, saying it gives this “enemy combatant” the same rights as an American citizen. “This is a perversion of the justice system,” South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said.

In a hearing Wednesday, lawmakers grilled Holder, questioning whether America is growing weak in the war on terror. “I suspect our enemies and friends must be wondering what's going on in our heads,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama. Wondering, he said: “are they serious about this effort?”

Holder shot back: “We are at war and will use all tools … to win. We will not cower in the face of this enemy.”

But in a WNYC radio interview, former 9/11 Commission member, Republican Tom Kean, also expressed concern that Mohammed would use the trial as a platform to entice followers. “He wants to be Che Guevara ... I worry a little bit that we’re giving him that forum.”

Others say the American judicial system is best suited for such cases. “What would they prefer we do? Execute these people without a trial?” said Karen Greenberg, the executive director of NYU’s Center on Law & Security. Besides, she says, military commissions have had little success. Only three individuals have been tried in seven years – compared to more than 300 others prosecuted successfully in civilian courts.

Just Sayin’ – Is it weakness to try terrorists in civilian court?

Filed under: Just Sayin'
soundoff (168 Responses)

    YES.Terrorists should be tried before a military court;and,after a fair trial,should be executed asap.

    March 26, 2010 at 8:29 am |
  2. Helen

    Why are the republican party so afraid to try these monsters on US soil. Where they did their dirty work? I think their oppositions is just to want the opposite of our President and the democratic party. The president tried to bring them aboard only to get told he didn't they are the party of opposite anything opposite the president. Never since I was little did I see such name calling and such awful disrespect to a president or other senators as these republicans. They act like the tea party people no class...

    March 25, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
  3. Andrew

    A civilian trial would be the best thing for America to do. Terrorists should not be given the recognition of being an opposing military force, and should be treated exactly for what they are: criminals. It would also have a demoralizing effect abroad that America can and will reach out far and wide, and it doesn't matter if you are sitting in NYC, a cave in Afghanistan, an apartment in Pakistan, a jungle in the Phillipines, etc, etc, if you commit a crime, you will be seized, and you will stand trial. Fears of an unjust outcome of the trial are ridiculous. Does anyone truly believe that Osama Bin Laden (or any other related criminal minions) would get off on parole if tried in US Federal court? No-no, American justice should be far reaching, fair, swift, decisive and most importantly, just. Let's hope politics (and the poor American precedent this past decade in terms of human rights and such) can stand aside and let our true heritage shine through and crush the enemies of not only of America, but the civilized world in general.

    March 25, 2010 at 3:44 pm |
  4. MJ Granger

    Criminal courts are for civilian criminals. Military courts are for war criminals. A bona fide Prisonar of War (POW) is someone who meets the criteria of a POW in the Geneva Conventions – Law of War. For al Qaeda, decidedly NOT POWs due to the fact that they meet none of the criteria for POWs, must first be "screened" on the battle field. They face a tribunal right away to determine their status, if their status is in question. Then, they get shipped to Gitmo. From there, it depends on the rule of law. Liberals would like to set them all free, or have them tried in a "real court." Conservatives would probably like to see them all hang, but at the very least get a look over from a military tribunal. Who's right? If you agree that we are at war, which I will argue we have been since November 21, 1979 (see my previous posts), then reasonably you must agree that the military have the depth of experience and ability to try the al Qaeda fairly. If you don't agree that we are at war, then you are asleep; wake-up and smell the bloodshed. We have troops in at least 72 countries world wide, and still have troops in Germany, Japan, Italy (former enemies), and South Korea, just to name a few, and oh, by the way, our military is 100% volunteer. I know that sounds hard to believe, but yes, all of our military personnel chose to do what they are doing. So don't tell me they need to come home or any of that crap,because they don't want to come home, they want to finish the mission, as they have been trained to do. Could the al Qaeda get a "fair" trial in a civilian court? Of course, but they don't deserve it. They are not U.S. citizens, so don't have the priviledges of citizenship. They are human beings, so we treat them with dignity and respect when incarcerated (see my soon to be published book: "Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Soldier."). Remember that the Law of War gives permission to execute illegal combatants, and throughout history that's what countries at war have done with "spies," i.e. anybody who is not a POW, detained or retained person, civilian non-combatant, or any other classification described in the Conventions. Al Qaeda are decidedly illegal combatants, and should be treated as such, but since they hold possible life-saving information, we keep them alive, well fed, well cared for, and with a lovely sea view for most of the ones who behave. It is not a "corrections" situation. It is not a rehabilitative situation. It is a detention situation. They are lucky to even have the possibility of a "day in court," military or otherwise. They chose to be terrorists, murderers, soldiers of fortune, etc. And as the late, great Tony Barretta used to sing, "Don't do the crime, if you can't pay the time!"

    March 23, 2010 at 1:57 pm |
  5. Daniel Mellon Sr

    Our Military is for our protection. Our Court's are for Prosicution. I can't understand why some people in this country are apposed to putting these Criminal's through the system that has been designed for them. Why are we paying our Law enforcement people if not for these type of problems. The Federal Pen's of our counrty are no Picnic. These Criminal's are Living in a paridise compared to the federal penitentariary's in this Country. It is Cowardice to stop them from being tried in our court system.

    March 22, 2010 at 10:53 am |
  6. eugene michaels

    What everyone conviently forgets is that not everythng that happens since the president was elected is caused by him, especially if it is defined as bad.
    As for Holder. It was the United States supreme court that has ruled on the case and decided military tribunals smack of the 1935 show trials ( Given legitimacy by the German High Court) and were in fact found not legal in international law and therefore, moot They were used by a monster to further his twisted and demented notion of german superiority and race. A modern entity that is "right" has no more legitimacy than Hitler or stalin, and any other dictator thinking they are right.
    Justice Stevens, in this weeks New Yorker, is against military tribunals because they are, without a doubt, completely illegal and would be found so in international courts of law.
    And who is the genius that decided U.S. correctional facilities are somehow lacking in security or in the harshness of punishment. when is the last time a federal prisoner escaped from a federal lock up?
    The point is, we mauy not agree with the decisions of our courts but either way, it is still our duty to uphold legitimate uses of power(such as found in our courts and correctional use of power). Mostly, someone in the opposition has decided that every move made by the new administration is to be criticised harshly, no matter the results. It's the military mind set which is fine for the miitary but counter intuitive when it comes to contributing to keep thew country on a stable course. It is galling in war time that our president is so harshly man-handled by those who oppose him, particularly when we our sending our young men to die in foreign lands.
    Despite the extraordinary strenth of the modern executive, the law of the land divides powers equally between the three branches. This has not changed officially but power has shifted due to the Congress deferring to the presidency instead of checking power through the purse strings.
    Changing the power structure so that lobbiest are put in their rightful place our of the government power loop should be the first order of business but it is unlikely it will happen soon.
    finally, tea parties and populist rants in town hall meetings may make the folks feel like they are the ones really in power in this country. Of course popular opinion is important. The lobbyist is the power broker that decides a number of important decisions, including elections, government contracts, and businesses shown favored status. These are the movers the people should be mad at, not the president, or the political parties.

    March 21, 2010 at 3:14 am |
  7. S Harris

    It seems to me that how & where a person is caught should determine jurisdiction. If they are arrested by civilian authorities for criminal activities within the US they should be tried as criminals. If they are caught outside the US, especially in combat areas, and are identified with groups that have declared war on us they should be treated as POWs. I'm not advocating torture just keeping them locked up until someone surrenders. We currently have a perfectly good place for keeping them too. It's called Guantanamo; no one's escaped. To close it because of past activities there is ridiculous. Washington DC has had such a terrible crime rate in the past with criminals in charge, this logic would require us to close the district & we'd be moving our capitol all over the place.

    March 19, 2010 at 11:27 pm |
  8. floyd

    America and the West are weak. We will lose the war on terror beacuase we are concerned with every minor detail of the rights of mass murderers. Terrorists don't care about the rights of Westerners nor even how many they kill. Their way is to win BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. This is why America is destined to lose.

    March 19, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
  9. Roland

    Vet March 1st, 2010 1:18 pm ET

    "People who suggest that trying terrorists, especially those caught outside the US, in civilian courts "shows our strength" and that doing otherwise shows that we really don't believe in our system. The reality is that our criminal system is not designed to handle these types of acts. Will you expect the US military to read terrorists their rights? Will terrorists be allowed access to a lawyer while incarcerated in some other country? Suggesting that the only way to try terrorists is "within our system" seems to me to imply that the Nuremburg trials of Nazis wasn't valid because it wasn't "within our system" of jurisprudence."

    The problems with the Nuremburg (SIC) trials were that they punished people for violating ex post facto laws and that some of the judges were Russians. Remember the Katyn Forest massacre, blamed on German soldiers, but actually committed by Russians?

    March 8, 2010 at 7:26 pm |
  10. Roland

    Of course the real "problem" with an open trial with full media coverage is that as part of his defense he will adduce the crimes we, the British and Israel have committed against the Muslim world. How stupid one must be to believe the neocons' claim that the terrorists hate us because of our freedoms. They hate us because of the horrors and injustices we have inflicted on them for longer than a century. There, I've written it, and that Zionist thug Ari Fleischer and his, "The people are going to have to watch what they say," can go to blazes.

    March 8, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
  11. darla

    since the last time i posted, ive been looking into what makes more sence on where the trials should be held, and as it turns out it all depends on how the evidence was gained there are very different evidentuary rules between civil and military law. we as americans have been fighting each other over this issue which really has no political value, we have been so partisan like the politicians we distain who participate in partican politics.i guess what i,m saying is as long as thease terrorists are found guilty and we dont bankrupt the country and turn the whole thing into a circus, it makes no difference to me. we as a nation need to come together put aside are party affiliations and come together as americans not republicans or democrates i for one am so sick of party politics, and it is tearing OUR country apart..

    March 5, 2010 at 10:32 am |
  12. Vet

    Couple of simple questions:
    1. Was KSM read his rights by the CIA and special operatives who, working with Pakistani intelligence, caught him?
    2. Did we have control over the chain of evidence from Pakistan (where he was caught) to here?

    People who suggest that trying terrorists, especially those caught outside the US, in civilian courts "shows our strength" and that doing otherwise shows that we really don't believe in our system. The reality is that our criminal system is not designed to handle these types of acts. Will you expect the US military to read terrorists their rights? Will terrorists be allowed access to a lawyer while incarcerated in some other country? Suggesting that the only way to try terrorists is "within our system" seems to me to imply that the Nuremburg trials of Nazis wasn't valid because it wasn't "within our system" of jurisprudence.

    March 1, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
  13. MJ Granger

    The crux of this argument centers around whether or not the detainee is entitled to habeas corpus. The Supreme Court answered this question during WW II and said, "no," the captured German spies were not entitled to the same rights and legal privileges as American citizens, and so the German sabteurs were tried and some executed by a military commission. Since 9/11 administrations and courts have wavered on this question, but currently the answer is "yes," detainees are entitled to habeas corpus. This is a slippery slope, and could lead to unecessary expense and confusion.

    Operating under the traditional matra that the punishment should fit the crime, we should not give any public air time, face time, or any other time to detainees. Fisrt, it is against the Geneva Conventions to do so. Second, it encourages others to commit similar crimes so that they may achieve martyr status. If no one knows your name, and no one knows what you look like, then you are a nobody. In the world of the male Muslim extremist there is nothing worse than oblivion.

    We don't need to feed the American insatiable appetite for titillating news in the name of freedom of speech. There are things we don't need to know, and in fact, that works best in war. It is not always about right and wrong. Sometimes it is about survival. And in the end, if you strip away all the nice philosophical arguments, you end up with doing what's necessary to preserve the Union, like it or not.

    February 23, 2010 at 3:00 pm |
  14. Danilo

    Please provide metrics for 600 million to try a terrorist in Federal Court. The estimates for doing it in Downtown Manhattan was $250M at the very highest. They aren't going to try in that venue so the security concerns will be much, much less. What makes anyone think that security on a military base won't be an issue (one lone gunman took out a whole bank full of people just a couple of months ago, remember?). That isn't free either.

    I think it's worth it to have the rest of the world watching as we try this dirtbag in open court exposing him for the coward that he is and showing that our way of life and trust in our system is not afraid of his absurd manifesto to the eyes of the world, rather than in a secret military tribunal where the results are published after the fact. Every time we react in fear, use fear of them as a wedge to separate our views or subvert our normal system, we lose.

    It's time to start winning.

    February 23, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
  15. Darla

    Danilo. if theres one thing that i have to agree with you on is that we will never see eye to eye on this subject....i have no doubts that the terrorists will be found guilty be it in federal court or military court. my point is this we are running such a deficit in this country to spend upward of 600 million dollars on a trial in fed court when we will get the same result in a military court at less then 1% of that cost would be an injustice to the american taxpayer. if anyone in the administration or yourself would take a hard look at the polls the majority of the american people to not want thease trials in federal courts.

    February 23, 2010 at 9:39 am |
  16. Danilo

    Let's look at the record since 911. 135 terrorists charged and tried in civilian courts, almost all are doing time now. 3 terrorists tried in military courts. 2 are now back in their home countries and one is in jail.

    I agree that it shouldn't be about Democrats or Republicans, but the issues of civilian trials seem to have not been a burning issue before now. Hmmm... What's changed? Oh yeah. We have a Democratic administration and a Republican minority that is more interested in power than patriotism.

    If you're tried in a military court, you get lawyers, rights and all the trimmings. In fact with the conservative nature of the officer corps, the rules are much stricter. Civilian courts have a tremendous record for convictions of terrorists - something touted by the entire previous administration. Our government is perfectly suited to dealing with terrorists, the military is not a judicial body, they don't have manpower or expertise to do this. The mindset of "give the terrorists to the military and they'll sort it out" is just pure propaganda. If you believe this, you're watching too many movies.

    As far as terrorists being "enemy" combatants, who's exactly is the enemy? One could argue that it is a criminal organization with a political agenda, similar to the Mafia in Sicily or other Eastern Bloc groups. Giving these groups the "status" of some type of virtual country or political body only gives them further justification. They are well-organized, bloodthirsty thugs. They should be treated as such. I for one have no fear of what they would say in a public forum. In fact, I'd love for them to ramble on in a public trial to expose them for the bigoted, small-minded cowards that they are.

    Darla, reciting talking points like "enemy combatants", "not due the same rights", and throwing the attorney general (check spelling please) out there, I'm sure that you've made Glen Beck proud, and I'm also sure that we're not going to see eye to eye on this issue. The fact is, we're catching, killing and fighting terrorism in a mode that has accelerated over the last administration, yet this somehow is "ignored" to enhance opposition agendas.

    February 22, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
  17. Darla

    Danilo,the question shoulod not be about the bush or oboma administration or should it be about republican or democxratic policies..this is about what justice best fits the circumstance. the terrorists are enemy a military trial is the place for justice. an enemy combatant is not due the same rights as an american citizen.and if you think justice isnt compared to monitary means look at oj simpsons dream team. right or wrong justice is not equal in this country the depth of your pocket book will determine the outcome of your trial (nobody wants a public defender). what makes you think a military court is less just than a federal court??.besides how can the terrorists get a fair trial in fed court when the attourney general already predisposed all jurys that they will be "found guilty" now how just can this be?

    February 22, 2010 at 11:21 am |
  18. Danilo

    Darla - I wasn't aware that the quality of justice can also be measured at cost to taxpayers. That's interesting. I hope that if you ever have to face a judge, the cost of the trial doesn't affect the outcome of the judgment.

    You seem to be putting words in my mouth to make your argument. Why not stand behind your own words? Why is holding trials for alleged terrorists OK for the Bush administration but somehow weak when Obama does it?

    This kind of "truth" slowly emanates from the wrong end of a flatulent horse.

    February 17, 2010 at 10:06 pm |
  19. Darla

    Danilo, you say that to be a patriot you must know the laws and the constitution of this great nation, yet you believe the terrorists trials shoud take place in federal courts at great expense to the american tax payer.You speak laws "right or wrong"...yet there was no law in place regarding terrorists before Oct 17th 2006. Now that such a law is available to handle the terrorists through military tribunals at no cost to the american taxpayer.don,t we n ow have to be patriots and follow the LAWS!!!

    February 17, 2010 at 11:42 am |
  20. Danilo

    "liberal media" - hmm. I only hear from one corner of the political spectrum use "liberal media".

    I guess that "liberal media" is any "free press" that reports anything that goes against an incredibly narrow definition of dogmatic principles.

    Or in terms you might understand - "truth that you don't want to agree with". It must really bite to have to label stuff all the time.

    February 16, 2010 at 9:33 am |
  21. MJ Granger

    Nice try. If you read the reports from days before CPL Stephen Crowley was murdered by male Muslin extremist "students" in Islamabad, you would have discovered that western papers did report the story. Of course, by the time the embassy in Pakistan was overrun and Stephen's life was snuffed out, the western liberal press had the facts. How many articles did you find denouncing the initial reports beofre Stephen's death? Read "the Cat from Hue" by John Laurence. This book, more than any other I have ever read, tells the true tale of the heart of liberal media in war time. I experienced the lies and undercutting of U.S. military operations first hand while serving at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 2002. In my book, "Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A memoir of a citizen soldier" (due out this spring from AEG Publishing Group/Strategic Book Publishing) I describe some of this behavior from a first person perspective. From your determination I am wondering if your real name isn't "David Hicks."

    And Allen, no detainees in U.S. military custody were tortured, by definition. You've been reading too much liberal press again. The exception has been isolated incidents of abuse, but there has been no torture of detainees in U.S. military hands. The ICRC would have been all over it. The worst the International Committee of the Red Cross got upset about at Gitmo when I was there was us taking the candy out of the MREs of uncooperative detainees.

    February 15, 2010 at 10:28 pm |
  22. ALLAN

    Much of the uproar about trying Khalid in is probably due to the fact that most any reasonable court would most likely consider any evidence acquired from him directly would be tainted and inadmissible due to the fact that he was tortured while in custody.

    Trying him in a quiet military court, outside of the public eye would save the previous administration the embarrassment of the exposure of their stupidity.

    February 15, 2010 at 8:56 am |
  23. Ausman98

    MJ Granger/Steve Palmer –

    The media report to which you refer originated from Iranian radio whose broadcasts can be heard in Pakistan and, given that the Iranian Revolution had just taken place, were a prime source for radicals in Pakistan. Radical Islamic students do not get their news from western media–liberal or otherwise. ALL the reports in the western media of the events in Islamabad that sad and tragic day stated clearly that the report that Americans had invaded Mecca originated in Iran and was false. I researched this myself by reading reports in over two dozen newspapers in the U.S. and the U.K. So the charge that the "liberal media" (a cliche and a false one at that) were responsible for what took place in Islamabad is a canard.

    What is an embarrassment, Mr. Palmer, is when people are irresponsible and spout the words of others rather than taking the time to actually search out the truth. Use of a worn out cliche like "liberal media" betrays an underlying bias that warns that what's to come after should be viewed with skepticism. Intellectual laziness is an irresponsibility that both cheapens and threatens the freedoms we hold as Americans–far more than any other foreign entity. I stand by what I said earlier and challenge anyone to provide verifiable facts from multiple and diverse sources to prove otherwise.

    February 14, 2010 at 10:05 pm |
  24. Steve Palmer

    To: MJ Granger,
    I salute you for your Feb 3rd & Feb 12th comments!
    Although, I don't consider trying terrorist in a civilian court a "weakness", I do consider it a "lack-of-understanding" and "good judgement".
    And, while I consider the views of the "asuman98'(s)" an embarrasment ...
    "I"ve learned not to try and argue a point where bias has overcome the speakers ability to reason", (quoting ausman98 comments of Feb 3rd). ...The wheel squeeks because it's lacking oil.
    Stand strong my goes Kennedy's seat, so shall go Reid, Pelosi and Obama.

    February 12, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
  25. Danilo

    What shocks me is the use of language by the two different camps. It seems that those willing to look past slogans, talking points and catchphrases actually write their comments in English, not some form of "pidgin" English that misuses apostrophes, "theirs and theres", "yours and you'res", etc.

    They camp that thinks civilian courts are wrong just spout off these slogans and epithets that they've learned, not actually knowing U.S. Law. The law doesn't matter to them, just what "feels right". They wrap themselves in the Constitution without really understanding what it means.

    Shame on you. Being patriotic means really understanding your government, participating in it, understanding it's laws past "right and wrong". It is patriotic to question your government, but it's also much more patriotic to participate in compromise and collaboration with everyone in it, not just throwing anyone under a bus that doesn't agree with you. The Far Right is rewriting history "as they see it" because the truth and facts don't agree with their dogma.

    We fought one Civil War because we couldn't find compromise and collaborate. It caused more American deaths than all other wars combined. Anyone besides me getting creeped out by the current state of affairs?

    February 12, 2010 at 12:04 pm |
  26. david baker

    Where does our government get off, reading the Christmas Day bomber his rights, or any of the terrorist's. I have talked with several world war 2 vets in my earlier years, and none of them ever mentioned reading rights to captured German or Japanese prisoners, nor do they deserve to have an American trial...WE ARE AT WAR.

    February 10, 2010 at 7:05 pm |
  27. MJ Granger

    Ausman98, "liberal media" is a fact, and one that in 1979 caused great irreparable damage. Good, bad, or indifferent, the media did not get independent confirmation on the false story about Americans desecrating Mecca. The story spread like swine flu and took on a life of its own. In the end, Bin Laden, who later funded the male Muslim extremist "students" who stormed the embassy and killed CPL Crowley, is a slithering dog in the dirt and muck of his criminality. Winning and losing are concepts that are not as important as doing what is necessary to preserve the democracy, freedom, and liberty we all enjoy in this country (USA). The tip of the spear is our special forces and clandestine operations, which we will never fully know about, nor should we. The screws have been tightening on Bin Laden and his ilk since quickly after 9/11/01. The Global War on Terror, decidedly a war of ideas, true, but also a hot war, and one that claims real lives of real people, true patriots, whether winable or not, must be fought. To honor military personnel and veterans and their sacrifice we should all remember them daily, and like Lincoln said of the veteran we need to "care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan."

    February 10, 2010 at 6:12 pm |
  28. MRTexas

    The only weakness here are the Republicans and the haters who want to play politics with everything! Nothing for Americans...the hell with fear, lies, hate, and Retards!

    February 10, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
  29. darla

    Theres been alot of opinions as of late by democrats and republicans over how to handle the terrorist trials. The oboma administration has now come out to defend there descion by saying that 300 terrorists were tried under the bush administration,yet noone in the oboma admistration can not or have not named the 300 cases.I myself have tried to search for information, documents,public records, to confirm that the 300 trials took place in our civil courts,at this time have found no such information.when the HR-6166 was sighned into law by an act of congress and sighned by then president bush on oct 17th 2006.It,s purpose was to give the authorization to try terrorists in military tribunals, The majority of the americal people do not want thease terrorists treated as common criminals, and given the constitutional rights of an american citizen. the are enemy combatans and need to be treated as such.The cost alone to have thease trials in New York or any other city could cost up to 200 million dollars a year with a 2 to 3 year trial,compared to a military trial of 36 dollars a day at a time table of 3 months. With the American economy in such trouble which makes more sence?...We the people have made are feelings known and the administration is ignoring us, and believe we will not forget this inconsideration come 2012!!!!!! we have waited long enough for justice, and we demand it now, not at a cost of up to 600 million dollars of our hard earned money, my taxes can go to a better use.LIKE GETTING DOWN THE DEFICIT!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 10, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
  30. John

    We should not be extending constitutional rights to non-US citizens. The US constitution protects US citizens, not islamic terrorists. They do not have the right to remain silent.

    February 10, 2010 at 9:32 am |
  31. ausman98

    MJ Granger, with respect, your first sentence makes my point. Americans are not being blown up randomly in public. And if we hadn't had a fabulously inattentive and dismissive attitude toward security (despite more than adequate warnings) in 2001, it wouldn't have happened then either. Just because it did happen doesn't justify the gross overreaction in terms of restriction of civil liberties, violation of Constitutional principles, international treaties, and almost drunken expenditure of financial and human resources. Other nations around the world have experienced acts of terror without such a spasm of unfocused and improperly focused activity. The reaction to terror is not to bankrupt oneself and repeatedly inflict injury on oneself. The intent of terror is to get the target to react in just the very way we have. Despite your own very noble intentions and efforts, we are clearly less than what we were–both in our own eyes and in that of the rest of the world. It is in that very real sense that Bin Laden is winning. It is a war of ideas, sir; and as such will not and cannot be won with bullets and bombs. Bin Laden has no army. We're shooting at shadows and ghosts and building a huge reservoir of frustration and fatigue in the process–and not just in this country. The mere fact that there hasn't been a successful attack here since 9/11 is wonderful; but it is not an indicator of success in an overall sense.

    Rather than reassuring, I find it perverse that if we are truly at war justly that only a small subset of the population– volunteer or not– is asked to be aware of it and shoulder even a tiny share of its burdens. I suspect that more hasn't been asked of the rest of us because the bedrock bankruptcy of the policy prosecuted may become apparent enough to force a re-evaluation that some do not wish us to make.

    As for blaming (at least in part) "liberal media" for what you say was the seminal event in this "war", I think you've played your hand poorly on that one, my friend, and laid bare a bias unsupported by fact. I've learned not to try and argue a point where bias has overcome the speaker's ability to reason.

    February 3, 2010 at 11:56 am |
  32. MJ Granger

    Last time I checked, Americans weren't being blown up randomly in public, nor do we have a foreign country providing us with security. And as for Bin Laden, If you consider hiding in a cave for 9 1/2 years, having most of your firends and colleagues killed or jailed, and wondering if that buzizng sound overhead means a missle with your name on it, 'winning" then you are derranged, sir (ausman98). And we're not in "two wars," we are in a Global War on Terror (GWOT), with forces in over 72 countries world wide. The GWOT actually started in November of 1979 when Marine CPL Stephen Crowley was murdered by male Mulim extremist "students" who were allowed to storm the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, on rumors that the U.S. had siezed control of Mecca in Sauidi Arabia. The news was spread of the siege, unsubstantiated of course, by a liberal media quick to pounce on anything anti-American. Stephen Crowley was the first casualty in the GWOT, and it took us until 9/11/01 to wake up and smell death in the air. When I returned from Iraq in November of 2005 I noticed everyone going about their daily business as if there was no war. At first I was incensed, but then realized that that was what I was fighting for – people being able to go about their daily business. Some people call that freedom and liberty, and the persuit of happiness. Sound familiar? There is a price to pay for all of that, and currently, in this country (USA) we have an all volunteer military doing quite a good job of it. Any questions?

    February 2, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
  33. ausman98

    Anyone who thinks that Bin Laden hasn't been winning this "war" from the beginning and is still winning it now isn't paying attention. Convulsed with fear, we have torn up huge parts of our own Constitution, thereby demonstrating that it contains mostly hollow words, not closely held and jealously guarded beliefs. We are bankrupting ourselves in two ill-conceived foreign wars, with a military budget we can't possibly sustain while watching our infrastructure crumble, our schools fail and our social safety net decay. Our political system and social fabric are fraying to the point where a new civil war is not inconceivable. So, tell me again, are the policies of the Bush years and the continuation of too many of them by Obama working? Really?

    February 1, 2010 at 10:53 pm |
  34. Dan Nelson Lafayette,IN

    First off these terrorists are not American and do not have the rights of an American. These guys are sworn enemies of the American way and do not deserve the rights of Americans! They also are enemy combatants and should be tried as such in a military trial that military officers are the ones to decide whether guilty or innocent and hand out the punishment of death. Then we will slow the recruitment of these terrorist and they would have their so called martyrdom, which actually is giving their lives to save someone and not kill anyone! When their children grow up they will learn that this will be the outcome if they want to fight the western world but we should reassure the Muslim world that martyrdom does not come by killing people but saving people who's life is in danger and it is the terrorists who puts peoples life in danger! The passengers of the flight that nosed dived in Pennsylvania on 9/11 are martyrs.That's a fact Jack.

    January 29, 2010 at 8:35 am |
  35. chris

    The best you guys can do is get Elliot Spitzer. Who cares what elliot Spitzer thinks. I have to say it was a little funny watching him sit across from Kiran with her skirt facing him. How much is CNN paying him for his opinon that no-one cares to hear?

    January 29, 2010 at 8:07 am |
  36. glenn

    to JW in VW and everyone else. We are a country ruled by laws. Not by individuals or even groups.The first question is jurisdiction. Then be it military or civil, the accused is to get a fair trial. Period. Personally it is obvious that the civil court is far more efficient. AND would be the way that anyone could get the "fair" trial part. I consider Al Qaida to be a government/country that has declared war on the US. How did we treat the solders who targeted civilians in other wars? We know about Neuenberg and (small scale) or Lt Calley in Vietnam. I haven't yet read the Geneva Convention, but I believe its the starting point.
    It also addresses another point: As much as we all cry vengeance, we (USA) still don't follow the civilized world when it comes to capital punishment. We should be ashamed to see who are the other countries who've not signed up.
    GS (in Switzerland)

    January 27, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
  37. Danilo

    It's only OK if Republicans do it. If Democrats do it then it's weak.

    The Bush administration even tried the 20th hijacker in Federal Courts. Seems like nobody got all bunched up over that. It's the same old rabble cranked up about the same old stuff. They're too ignorant of actual law (you don't have to be a citizen, fools - the Constitution states that trials, the right to confront accusers, and all other rights are granted to ANYONE on trial in the US).

    The protections are there too keep the mob, which has been well-represented in this thread, from taking matters into their own hands.

    Why fear what this idiot has to say in open court? People watch way too much Law and Order. If you want to try people in secret and punish them in obscurity, maybe you can set your personal "wayback machine" to 1950's Stalinist USSR.

    Of course, never let the facts get in the way of Conservative Red Meat Talking Points. Beating the "other side" is more important than patriotism.

    January 27, 2010 at 6:50 am |
  38. MJ Granger

    What is a terrorist? Is it different than being an illegal combatant? Timothy McVeigh was a U.S. citizen, and therefore entitled to all the rights and privileges of a citizen, including the right to a fair trial in a civilian court of law. Foriegn terrorists are not entitled to any rights and privileges, including hbeas corpus; they get what we give them, which, to date, has been the spirit of the Geneva Conventions for fair treatment with dignity and respect. Even the Taliban are entitled to more protection because they are a psuedo-recognized force. Al Qaeda is a terrorist organization whose members are also illegal combatants in the Global War on Terror. The "war" part means the military take care of the legal aspects of a person's detention. We set up tribunals to determine the battle field status of a detainee, and then determine the disposition based on the findings of that initial "trial." The basis for the decision on status is the same as that for our Grand Juries, which use the 51% rule: if the evidence shows that it is more likely than not that the detainees status is this or that, then that is what the status will be. It's really that simple. From there, a magistrate (U.S. military JAG) reviews the case and makes a recommendation for disposition. Depending on the approving authority, the detainee may be released or tried for his alleged crimes. It's all in the manuals, regulations, and Law of War. Nobody need go re-inventing the wheel here. The terrorist/illegal combatants who are to be tried in new York deserve neither to feel the soil of freedom and liberty under their feet, nor enjoy the publicity and notariety that will surely come with their presence in the greatest city in the world. They do not deserve, nor should they have the world stage for one second more. They deserve the obscurity and lonliness of an isolated prison, say, somewhere in the Caribbean with maybe a sea view.

    January 25, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
  39. alpha

    Why try them if they're caught in the act trying to detonate a bomb ? Take them somewhere safe away from innocent people and let them detonate themselves. If they want to kill themselves , let them . It'll save us the trouble .

    January 25, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
  40. greg m

    It is weakness to fear trying terrorists in civilian courts.

    The most obvious example is Timothy McVeigh. He was prosecuted in civilian court, and, far from advancing his agenda, exposing it in court greatly weakened it.

    January 22, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
  41. MJ Granger

    Cherishing human rights and believing in the Constitution doesn't mean there can be no fitting punishment to crimes and violent acts. Applying justice equally is not as important as applying justice fairly and according to one's actions. Context matters. In war time those who commit illegal acts of war should be tried in war tribunals. In peace time those who commit illegal acts should be tried in civilian courts. Non-U.S. citizens have not earned the right to habeas corpus, especially if they commit acts of violence in the name of war/jihad, and especially if these acts are carried out on foreign soil. Different crimes in different circumstances deserve different considerations. These criminals deserve obscurity, not the full rights and priviledges of the common peaceful citizen.

    January 12, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
  42. Voig Nederlander

    If we claim to cherish human rights and the principle that all men are created equal, then we MUST enforce that belief by applying justice equally across all suspects.

    Anything less is a violation of our heritage, our lineage, and the Constitution we claim to hold so dear.

    January 11, 2010 at 7:46 pm |
  43. Gabriel

    They tried to hurt us, so we need to judge them and send them to dead

    January 7, 2010 at 8:08 am |
  44. Janie in Louisiana

    Since McVeigh and the 'shoe bomber' have been convicted in our Federal courts (McVeigh-dead/death penalty) and the 'shoe bomber' still imprisoned after his conviction, I am confident that a jury in New York will be ojective, and faithful in their duty as jurors.

    Recent history teaches me, that this is not a mistake!

    January 6, 2010 at 10:04 am |
  45. lch

    I always believed we should hold criminal trials in these cases. I have no problem trusting our system to deal with these criminals. Also, I think treating them differently telegraphs to the rest of the world that the American Justice System is simply not effective. Additionally, approaching this problem from a criminal aspect enables us to legitimately use profiling (which DHS refuses to do). These people are criminals, not prisoners of war.

    January 6, 2010 at 8:39 am |
  46. Cristina in Laredo, TX

    Any non-US citizen who commits an act of terrorism within the boundaries of the US should be tried in an International Court within the confines of the US. As MJ Granger mentions above US citizens abroad whom are caught of commiting an illegal act are not treated by the laws of that country.
    We should be concerned about treating the terroristic criminal with basic humanitarian needs and fairness, nothing more. To avoid extraneous cost, 5 to 8 hours is enough time close the case; hence capital punishment to follow. We should not be so concerned about 21st century political correctness. We have competent executives, judges, and agencies. Let them handle it without interference of the media and the masses.

    December 30, 2009 at 4:40 pm |
  47. M. J. Granger

    No terrorist who committed the act outside the United States should be tried here. And those who commit crimes here in the name of jihad, and are identified as committing terrorist acts should be tried by military tribunal. We are in a Global War on Terror, and in times of war, these types of crimes are war crimes, just like German sabateurs during World War II. These Germans were captured and then President F.D.R. asked the Supreme Court what to do; were the Germans entitled to habeas corpus? The Supreme Court said "no," because they were members of a country at war with the U.S., were not U.S. citizens, and because the Army had an established method of trying war criminals. Kahlid Sheik Mohammad is not a U.S. citizen, is a member of a group who have sworn to the destruction of the U.S., have admittedly committed acts of terror against us, and since we are in a Global War on Terror is not entitled to the protections of habeas corpus. He nor any of the other war criminals being held in Gitmo deserve to set foot on U.S. soil. They have fulfilled no responsibilities, either as citizens of the U.S. or of the world, that might entitle them to any rights whatsoever other than those which compel us to treat them with dignity and respect as detainees under our control. They deserve obscurity and a military trial only. Nothing more, nothing less.

    December 30, 2009 at 11:08 am |
  48. john hawco

    the lawyers that have just about ruined our country are at it again. they are the one's screaming for trials to take place in the u.s. because it is a gold mine for them. the government must pay some scummy lawyer $150 an hour and this can run into millions of dollars counting all the appeals for just one terrorist esp if he gets the death penalty. all terrorists in guantanamo or captured overseas should never be brought to the u.s. for trial. the should recieve a military tribunal. if the crime happens here inside the u.s., then we have no choice.

    December 28, 2009 at 6:09 pm |
  49. Andy S.

    This is a stupid debate. The masterminds and participants in
    the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 were tried in civilian
    court and I believe that was during the Bush adminstration. Nobody
    said anything about that then. Also to try these mugs in a military
    court is just what they want. They just want attention. These are
    cheap criminals and should be tried as such!

    December 20, 2009 at 6:34 pm |
  50. Violet Weed

    The terrorists committed WAR against the USA. They should be tried in a military court and if found guilty executed by a firing squad.

    OBUMa just wants to endanger NYC again because he is a hater of america and wants to destroy this great land. He should be impeached.

    War act == military tribunal.

    December 20, 2009 at 11:44 am |
  51. Jack

    If they are captured by military then it should be a military tribunal. They were captured in a war zone. The call it a war. Simple as that.

    December 18, 2009 at 1:05 pm |
  52. John

    I am sick of hearing about the constitutional rights of terrorists. They are not US citizens and therefore have no constitutional rights. Yet the media and left wing lunatics love to talk about how we are violating their rights. If they had a clue, they would just shut up. If they love the terrorists so much, why don't they invite them into their own house?

    December 18, 2009 at 10:54 am |
  53. Bill

    Come on guys...this is war...we didn't start was brought to us. These people are prisoners of war. Simple as that. This war isn't over until the enemy agrees to formal conditions of surrender. Enemy combatants are the responsibility of our armed forces to imprison. They should be treated humanely but imprisoned none the less. If their actions deem a trail appropriate then a military tribunal is more than adequate. This entire episode is just another example of "change" for no reason other than political reasons. Don't we have more pressing business to attend to? And don’t even give the cr&p that we need the jobs this will create…there are more than enough domestic criminals that could fill that prison three times over.

    December 16, 2009 at 8:13 am |
  54. Pepe Santos

    There is a good chance any terrorist initially held as a military prisoner then tried with the rights afforded by US Criminal Court will walk. Military prisoners are not read Miranda rights, are not presumed innocent, and are not given prescribed access to legal counsel. How can these inconsistencies possibly survive a trial, and if so, survive an appeal.

    The two justice systems cannot be mixed because they are intended for two completely different purposes and are intentionally incompatible.

    This is a major blunder. If meddling politics now gets in the way, and the perp is found guilty, even on appeal, it will go to the Supreme Court and has to be overturned. This will hand the terrorists yet another major victory in their war against us and embolden them even more.

    We are snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:00 pm |
  55. Chris

    We've already tried several terrorist in civilian court, including Arab terrorist.

    Don't let politics over ride common sense or let partisan spin dictate our laws.

    December 15, 2009 at 6:23 am |
  56. the sunshine state

    These suspects are not "combatants" in the sense of what the military calls a combatant. Nor are they POW's. Their tactics violate both the LOAC and ROE. Their victims are American citizens not the soldiers so they should be tried in civilian court. You do have trust in the criminal justice system do you?

    December 14, 2009 at 1:19 pm |
  57. karen falch

    I don't think it is a sign of weakness. I do think, however, they ought to be tried in a military court if we are to believe Obama's speech regarding being at war with Al Kaeda. It's the new day type of war, a war beyond the nation state. No more marching armies. Just organized people with murderous intent, in cicvilian clothing, blowing up buildings and airplanes.

    December 10, 2009 at 2:15 pm |
  58. Bob Turner

    The military tried the Nazis and it worked fine. Bush is always wrong per the Democrats so the military trials had to be a failure.

    December 9, 2009 at 2:57 pm |
  59. Byron

    Yes in fact this country has become weak..People its not just the republicans,its the Dems to,they are the majority in the house the senate and the whitehouse.Inflations going up,jobs are going away and they are still letting thousands of people into the country daily and we cant afoord it any longer.Ever herd of Distractions of the truth.
    This is just whats happening all over america,
    We are a divided country and why its on a down hill path fast. Are ya ready to be hungry,very hugry when theres no food to eat because we no longer grow half the food in this country we should be,Imagine our Gov paying farmers not to grow food to eat but for some kind fuel for a motorized car or truck..PLEASE!
    Screw the terrorist its just a distraction like most all TV,kill em and get it over with and lets REUNITE the people of this country and FIX it ourselves because the people we're over paying to run it arent gonna do it.They are to cumfortable in their cushly offices and retirement they have and we dont.
    We've been had people its time to wake up before the sleep in our eyes permanently glues them shut
    .Oh ,dont forget how the amercian dollar is on the decline in value thanks to Bush and Obama and ALL those in office.They are spending money in Washinton that doesnt even exsist and we, our kids and grand kids and maybe greatgrand kids are gonna have to pay back and didnt even spend a penny of it,much less see any of it.
    So what about the terrorist now,just a small drop in the bucket in my opinion.

    December 4, 2009 at 10:44 am |
  60. Alexander G Muniz

    I am a retired Police Officer and after many tears of dealing in the civilian criminal court i have found that what you receive her is the illusion of truth and the facade of justice.
    The judge is present to expedite the cases and clear his calender. The attorneys are there to win by whatever means necessary.
    A defense attorney will tell you he will not prove you innocent only not guilty and there is a difference.
    Therefor, these people should be tried in a military court where the facts for both sides are presented.Theories and theatrics are not present only the facts of the case are present.

    December 1, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  61. Dwayne

    No I do not think it's weakness as long as the law is carried out right and handed out very heavy on that person. Gitmo really should stay open. I Think Obama should not close the Gitmo Base just to please the american people. It's WAR Time the american people have to understand this.

    December 1, 2009 at 3:26 am |
  62. Lt Scrounge

    International treaties (the Geneva Conventions to be specific) do not require nor do they support civilian trials for war criminals. The problem is that people are considering the 9/11 attacks as crimes. There were fewer people killed at Pearl Harbor than were killed on 9/11. Does anyone truly believe that Pearl Harbor wasn't an act of war? Of course not. Why? Because the Japanese presented us with a piece of paper informing us that they had declared war. Now the fact that they had already bombed Pearl Harbor before the official proclamation was presented, didn't make it any less an act of war. Exactly why does anyone believe we have over 100,000 troops in Iraq and over 50,000 troops in Afghanistan? Does anyone really believe that ANY law enforcement organization is suitable for this task? It is a WAR folks, wake up. The 9/11 commission report said that the Islamofascist terrorists had declared war on US but we had failed to take them seriously. Whether Congress declares it as a war or not, it is a war. Why sugar coat the truth? The enemy know it's a war. Our soldiers fighting it know it's a war. The family members who have to bury their loved ones know it's a war. About the only people who don't know it's a WAR are the AG, the President and their drooling supporters. The Geneva Conventions have a designation for combatants who are not uniformed, carry no identification, attack civilian targets with no military value, and hide their weapons when attacking. The designation is "Unlawful Enemy Combatant". As an "Unlawful Enemy Combatant", following a MILITARY TRIBUNAL to determine their status, "Unlawful Enemy Combatants" are subject to detention without further trial until the end of hostilities OR executed at the discretion of the theater commander. Should they be allowed to remain alive, following the end of hostilities, they may be tried as war criminals and then punished accordingly. That's what international law allows for. There is no time on a battlefield to for the niceties of a criminal investigation to obtain evidence to hold a civilian trial. If they're on a battlefield without a uniform and are shooting at you, they're guilty of being an unlawful enemy combatant. Those bullets whizzing past your head is evidence enough.

    November 28, 2009 at 8:58 pm |
  63. James NH

    The outcries were only beginning 4 years ago. By the time the majority cared it was too late because now the media is successfully misdirecting innocent peoples rightful frustrations.

    November 24, 2009 at 1:33 pm |
  64. MP-VA

    136 Terrorists were tried in civilian courts under George W. Bush. And, only now, is this a sign of weakness. Once again, the procrastinating hand of GOP discontent is sweeping our nation. Where were the outcries 4 years ago?

    November 23, 2009 at 1:05 pm |
  65. MVC

    Do you all remember because I remember on 2-26-1993 North Tower of the World Trade Center bombed-attacked under the Presidency of Bill Clinton, 6 dead, 1000 injured. We gave them civilian trials and it made no difference to them, what we got was a 2nd attack to our country. I read Ramzi Yousef’s admitted the 1993 attack was an act of terrorism. I read His uncle, Shaikh Mohammed Ali Fadden, was involved in the 911 attack as well as 1993 attack. I read Nosair was convicted of guns in Federal Court but acquitted of murder in Criminal Court. The 911 terrorists should be tried in Military Court, they attacked our country, NY is our country. Lets stop this political gimmick that the US needs to restore its reputation with the world because it has been tarnished by Gitmo, interrogation methods, war in Iraq, Afghanistan when these nations have Human Rights/Civil Rights at the bottom of their list or not on the list at all. Of course they don’t like Gitmo, interrogation methods, war anymore than they like Human Rights/Civil Rights, that would be like a druggy getting happy that a local rehab center has opened to help druggies fight their addiction. I am very proud of our US military, their work in protecting & defending those that cannot help themselves and doing all they can to insure the safety of all of us as well as others.

    November 22, 2009 at 1:39 pm |
  66. MIke Carter

    John Adams said his finest act was defending the British Soldiers arrested following the so-called Boston Massacre. He cited it as an example of the kind of nation we were creating, where the rule of law govens.

    Where does the Republic Party get off suggesting John Adams was unpatriotic?

    This whole "enemy combatant" status raises criminals and thugs to a level of respectability they clearly do NOT deserve. It also somehow gives the same status to a chauffeur, several students, and any number of farmers who never picked up a weapon in anger, but were turned in for a variety of reasons connected with the rewards being offered.

    These people committed a crime on American Soil. Not an act of war, for they represented no nation, wore no uniform. A CRIME. The appropriate response is, and always was, to give them the identification they deserve: criminals. Try them as criminals.

    November 21, 2009 at 6:27 pm |
  67. VoteDemsOut

    Steve, are you a retard? a terrorist is an organization usually sponsored by other countries, therefore military trial is the way to go.

    November 20, 2009 at 2:23 pm |
  68. VoteDemsOut

    Is everyone kidding? Do you people think that an irrational terrorist will respect the US and stop what they are doing because we are trying them in civilian courts? I see the terrorist saying, "ohhh, now that the US is trying people in civilian courts, lets stop the bombings"

    November 20, 2009 at 2:20 pm |
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