Terrorist has right to trial

Published 11:47 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Staff
Jo Bonner
U.S. Representative
On March 1, 2003, U.S. and Pakistani military personnel arrested the man who admitted to having planned the horrific terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.   As he was being led away, the defiant Al-Qaeda terrorist is reported to have threatened his captors, “I’ll see you in New York with my lawyer.”  Six years later, thanks to the Obama administration, the terrorist’s prophetic boast appears to be coming true.
Upon taking office, President Obama made clear his intention to close the U.S. terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and transfer many inmates to American soil where they would be held in prisons and subjected to the same justice U.S. citizens are entitled.     
On Nov. 13, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announc-ed plans to bring the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and four fellow terror plotters to New York to face trial in federal court.  When Holder was recently asked about his justification for affording these terrorists a public criminal trial, he reportedly replied, “I guess I’m saying is trust me.”
Trust is hard to come by in a time when Americans are increasingly concerned about their government’s commitment to their security.  In Afghanistan, on the front lines of the war on terror, the Obama administration has hesitated to fully commit to win the war.  And now, in a move that will undermine America’s anti-terror effort, the president wants to bring terrorists to U.S. criminal courts where our own methods of intelligence gathering will also be on trial.
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, President Bush authorized a system to effectively try foreign terrorists who are acting as enemy combatants.  These “military commissions,” which have been used at other times of war during U.S. history, follow the guidelines of the Geneva Conventions.  The accused are provided a fair trial in accordance with applicable laws of war.  Equally important, U.S. national security interests are also safeguarded.  America’s methods of intelligence gathering and sources are not compromised by a trial.
By opening the door to criminal trials for the 9/11 terrorists, the Obama administration appears more interested in scoring an international public relations victory than in safeguarding America’s interests.  We only have to look back to the 1993 trial of the first World Trade Center bomber to realize just how damaging the revelation of U.S. intelligence can be.  Armed with the same rights as U.S. citizens, the terrorists can demand access to all the evidence in their case, including intelligence.  In the 1993 trial, Al-Qaeda gained access to sensitive information about our intelligence gathering methods.
Rather than using the established secure process of a military commission to try terrorists, the Obama administration evidently believes these foreign 9/11 conspirators’ rights are somehow being disadvantaged – despite the fact that Congress has twice approved military commissions in 2006 and 2009, and the Supreme Court has upheld their use.
The president also appears unconcerned that efforts to stay ahead of Al-Qaeda and other terrorists will be jeopardized, as will the ability of American military personnel abroad to capture foreign terrorists.  Will they be forced to worry about reading terrorists Miranda rights on the battlefield?
I strongly oppose the Obama administration’s decision to try terrorists in U.S. criminal courts.  Accordingly, I am a cosponsor of the “Keep Terrorists Out of America Act” (HR 2294).