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Debate: Trying 9/11 terror suspects in NYC courts

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=== Conviction: Can civilian trials ensure conviction of the 9/11 terrorists? === === Conviction: Can civilian trials ensure conviction of the 9/11 terrorists? ===

Revision as of 11:17, 22 November 2009

Should 9/11 suspects be tried in New York, as ordered by US attorney general Eric Holder?

Background and context

Contents

Conviction: Can civilian trials ensure conviction of the 9/11 terrorists?

Pro

  • If somehow acquitted, terrorists would still be detained. Eric Holder said at a November Congressional hearing on his decision to try terrorists in NYC: "We would continue to hold them under the laws of war. We believe we have the authority to do that."[1]


Con


Rights: Is trying terrorists respectful of rights of all concerned?

Pro

  • Trying terrorists in NYC restores US rule of law "A Return to American Justice." New York Times Editorial. November 13, 2009: "Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. took a bold and principled step on Friday toward repairing the damage wrought by former President George W. Bush with his decision to discard the nation’s well-established systems of civilian and military justice in the treatment of detainees captured in antiterrorist operations. [...] Attorney General Holder announced that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, and four others accused in the plot will be tried in a fashion that will not further erode American justice or shame Americans. [...] It was an enormous victory for the rule of law."
  • Terrorists should be met with the weapon of the law. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani praised the trial of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, saying, "New Yorkers won’t meet violence with violence, but with a far greater weapon -- the law."[2]
  • Terror subjects are due a fair trial in civilian courts. Rudy Giuliani told reporters about the 2006 civilian trial of "20th hijacker": "I was in awe of our system. It does demonstrate that we can give people a fair trial, that we are exactly what we say we are. We are a nation of law. ... I think he's going to be a symbol of American justice."[3]
  • Nothing "common" about civilian punishments for terrorists. US Attorney General Eric Holder said in a November 2009 Congressional hearing defending his decision to try 9/11 terrorists in NYC: "There is nothing common about the treatment the alleged 9/11 conspirators will receive. In fact, I expect to direct prosecutors to seek the ultimate and most uncommon penalty for these heinous crimes."[4]
  • Civilian trials avoid using evidence from coercive interrogations. Stuart Taylor. "No Need To Fear A Manhattan Terrorist Trial." National Journal. November 21, 2009: "Brutal interrogations. Holder and his team plan to prevent the 9/11 prosecution from morphing into a trial of the CIA for torture, Newsweek has reported, by avoiding or minimizing reliance on admissions derived (or arguably derived) from coercive interrogations. These admissions may include Mohammed's statements during a 2007 Guantanamo hearing that he personally beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and "was responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z."

Con

  • Terrorists should not be treated as common criminals. Terrorists are a certain kind of villan. They attempt to kill massive numbers of civilians in a war against civilization and society. They are not like common criminals, so should not be treated as such, with rights in a civilian trial.
  • Civilian trials show more concern for terrorists than public. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani commented that he felt the decision to try terror suspects in New York: "seems to be an overconcern with the rights of terrorists and a lack of concern for the rights of the public."[5]
  • Trying terrorists in NYC grants them their wish. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said on ABC's This Week: "Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, when he was first arrested, asked to be brought to New York. I didn't think we were in the business of granting the requests of terrorists." [6]

Victims: Is allowing victims to see trials important?

Pro

  • It is fitting to try 9/11 terrorists at site of attacks. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in November of 2009: "It is fitting that 9/11 suspects face justice near the World Trade Center site where so many New Yorkers were murdered."[7]


Con

  • NYC civilian trial re-opens wounds of 9/11 victims Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, top Republican on the House intelligence committee, said in November of 2009: "We are now going to rip that wound wide open and it's going to stay open two, three, four years. They are going to do everything they can to disrupt it and make it a circus."[8]


Intelligence: Can a civilian court adequately protect intelligence?

Pro

  • Trying 9/11 suspects in civilian courts will not reveal key intelligence. Steven Simon. "Why We Should Put Jihad on Trial." New York Times. November 17th, 2009: "John Yoo, a former Bush administration lawyer, argues that the trial would be an “intelligence bonanza” for our enemies. Also unlikely. Our prosecutors are certain that there is enough unclassified evidence to make their case. Moreover, the most prized intelligence is recent, specific and actionable. Al Qaeda today is most concerned with discovering when and where the next drone missile attack will take place in Pakistan, information not likely to be disclosed during a trial about a conspiracy hatched more than a decade ago."
  • Intelligence surrounding 9/11 terrorists is not valuable anymore. While there is a remote chance that civilian courts would expose some intelligence, it would only be exposing 8-year-old intelligence, which is very unlikely to be useful to terrorists.

Con

  • Trying terrorists risks releasing intelligence, costing lives Charles Krauthammer. "Travesty in New York." Real Clear Politics. November 20, 2009: "Civilian courts with broad rights of cross-examination and discovery give terrorists access to crucial information about intelligence sources and methods. [...] That's precisely what happened during the civilian New York trial of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers. The prosecution was forced to turn over to the defense a list of two hundred unindicted co-conspirators, including the name Osama bin Laden. 'Within ten days, a copy of that list reached bin Laden in Khartoum,' wrote former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, the presiding judge at that trial, 'letting him know that his connection to that case had been discovered.'"
"Trying Sept. 11 mastermind in civilian court is dangerous." The Detroit News Editorial. November 19, 2009: "Yes, there is some symbolic value in treating Mohammed and his colleagues as common criminals, subject to ordinary criminal law. But Andrew McCarthy, the former assistant U.S. attorney who tried the "Blind Sheik" Omar Abdel Rahman for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, takes a different view. He told the Wall Street Journal that he supported the idea of trying Rahman in a civilian court at first, but discovered the problem of a criminal defendant's access to all kinds of government information. McCarthy has observed that intelligence information went from the World Trade Center defendants to Osama Bin Laden within days."


Safety: Is trying terrorists in New York safe?

Pro

  • New York has been through terrorist trials before. Joe Slakes. "We Shouldn't Fear Terror Trials In NYC." Fox News. November 20th, 2009: "It is also an unfortunate truth that we have been through terrorist trials before in New York City. The prosecutors as well as the federal and city law enforcement officials are experienced and are prepared. There is probably no other location in the United States better prepared for this trial than New York. [...] Some argue that the trial puts New York at the center of the terrorist target. I would argue that we have always been there and we will not let fear rule the day."

Con

Vs. military tribunals: Would civilian courts better than military tribunals?

Pro

  • Military tribunals do not fully uphold the rule of law. Stuart Taylor. "No Need To Fear A Manhattan Terrorist Trial." National Journal. November 21, 2009: "Trying the 9/11 defendants before military commissions, on the other hand, would be widely (if unfairly) denounced as designed to ensure convictions regardless of the evidence. A decision to continue holding the suspects without trial -- after eight years of presidential vows to put them on trial -- would be a damning admission that America is simply not up to the task of bringing war criminals to justice."


Con

  • Military tribunals make trying terrorists in court unnecessary. Dan McLaughlin. "Why Terrorists Don't Deserve A Court Date." CBS. November 18, 2009: "The trials are wholly unnecessary; the Administration is holding some enemy combatants without trial and trying others through the military commission system, thus conceding that it has alternatives. As a result, any risks, expenses or other downsides of the trials are being undertaken solely for the purpose of empty symbolism."
  • A military tribunal would have been faster in case of KSM. Charles Krauthammer. "Travesty in New York." Real Clear Politics. November 20, 2009: "Alternatively, Holder tried to make the case that he chose a civilian New York trial as a more likely venue for securing a conviction. An absurdity: By the time Obama came to office, KSM was ready to go before a military commission, plead guilty and be executed. It's Obama who blocked a process that would have yielded the swiftest and most certain justice."

Mixed approach: Is a mix of civilian trials and military tribunals justified?

Pro


Con


Propaganda: Is trying 9/11 terrorists in NY courts a propaganda win or loss?

Pro

  • Courtroom rants of terrorists only expose them as hateful fools Attorney General Eric Holder said in Congressional hearings in November of 2009 on his decision to try 9/11 terrorists in New York civilian courts: "I’m not scared of what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has to say at trial, and no one else needs to be afraid either.[...] I have every confidence that the nation and the world will see him for the coward that he is."[10]
  • American ideals will win over terrorist rants at court.
  • There will be no TV cameras in trials of 9/11 suspects. Steven Simon. "Why We Should Put Jihad on Trial." New York Times. November 17th, 2009: "Which brings us to the idea that allowing Mr. Mohammed to take the stand will give him a soapbox. The truth is, if the trial provides a propaganda platform for anybody, it will be for our side. [...] First, federal courts do not permit TV cameras in the courtroom, so the opportunity for “real time” jihadist propagandizing won’t exist."


Con

  • Trying terrorists in NY courts will not help US achieve anything. Cal Thomas. "Trying terrorists in New York is dangerous." The Wichita Eagle. November 18, 2009: "What do we hope to accomplish by trying these mass murderers on U.S. soil? Will it produce more troops from our NATO allies to finish the job in Afghanistan? Not likely. When the world sees how good and fair we are, will it love America more and will terrorists decide to kill us less? Only in the world of make-believe inhabited by American Civil Liberties Union lawyers."
  • Terrorist trial in NY will give appearance of US weakness. Cal Thomas. "Trying terrorists in New York is dangerous." The Wichita Eagle. November 18, 2009: "It also will serve as a recruiting video for future terrorists, because it will demonstrate what, to them, is weakness. A strong nation would have tried these men in the military tribunals Congress authorized for that purpose. A weak nation imputes rights to noncitizens who want to do away with the very rights we are now going to afford them."


Economics: What are the economic pros and cons of this move?

Pro

  • Trying and imprisoning terrorists can create needed US jobs. Margaret Carlson. "Big Apple Justice Fits Man Accused of 9/11." Bloomberg. Nov 19, 2009: "The politics of the trial stems from Obama’s decision to announce the closing of Guantanamo before he had lined up takers for its prisoners. Now with unemployment at 10.2 percent, he could hold an auction for the officials in Illinois, Montana, Michigan and Colorado clamoring for the detainees to fill their underused prisons. The politician who wins the detainees isn’t going to get booted from office. He’s going to get a parade."


Con

  • Trying terrorists in New York requires costly security measures. Dan McLaughlin. "Why Terrorists Don't Deserve A Court Date." CBS. November 18, 2009: "The additional security required to guard against #3 will cost the federal and city governments a fortune, interfere with the administration of justice in a busy federal district and busy federal prison, add to the traffic and delays already extant in lower Manhattan, and place a great burden on the jurors, judge, and prosecutors."

Public opinion: Where does public opinion stand on this issue?

Pro

  • Public opinion irrelevant to merits of civilian trial of terrorists. Justice is justice, and judicial process is judicial process. This is the case no matter where public opinion stands on an issue. If it is right to try a terrorist in civilian courts, than this should be done, irrespective of what the public thinks.
  • Trying and imprisoning terrorists will be popular where it creates jobs. The jobs created to handle the trying and imprisoning of terrorists are an attractive component of bringing them to US territory, particularly during economic difficulties. This is demonstrate in Illinois, where Senator Dick Durbin (D) has been seeking the opportunity for precisely this reason - to create jobs and possibly even win greater voter support.[11]

Con


Pro/con sources

Pro

Con

See also

External links and resources


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