News / USA

Possible Shift on US Terror Trial Alarms Human Rights Groups

Human rights and legal rights groups are urging the Obama administration not to change its decision to try the alleged conspirators of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States in the civilian court system as opposed to military commissions. The plea comes as senior administration officials reportedly are ready to recommend a shift back to the use of military commissions in the wake of a political firestorm that erupted over the initial decision by the Justice Department last November.

Multimedia

Audio

Last November, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that five alleged conspirators of the 9-11 attacks including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would go on trial in a federal court in New York City in connection with the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

But that decision may be about to be reversed, according to senior Obama administration officials cited in the Washington Post and by other sources.

A decision to reverse course could come as early as next week and would be the latest twist in a political firestorm that erupted over the issue of civilian trials since it was announced by Attorney General Holder last year.

The question of whether to try the alleged 9-11 conspirators in a civilian court or through a military justice track sparked an intense debate in Congress and on the nation's airwaves.

"I think trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York is a big mistake," said former Vice President Dick Cheney, who spoke recently on ABC's "This Week" program.  "It gives him a huge platform to promulgate his particular brand of propaganda around the world.  I think he ought he ought to be at Guantanamo.  I think he ought to be tried at Guantanamo in front of a military commission."

Vice President Joe Biden argued in favor of a civilian trial on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"Under the Bush administration there were three trials in military courts," he said. "Two of those people are now walking the streets.  They are free.  There were 300 trials of so-called terrorists, and those who engaged in terrorist acts against the United States of America who are in federal prison and have not seen the light of day."

Reaction in New York City to the prospect of a trial in federal court was decidedly negative, both from local officials and the public.  And recently Attorney General Holder told the Washington Post that transparency was more important than where the trials will ultimately be held, a signal to many that the administration was considering a shift.

Human and legal rights groups have already issued statements urging the administration not to switch the trial venues from the civilian court system to the military.

The American Civil Liberties Union said that a regrettable reversal under political pressure will strike a blow to American values and the rule of law and will undermine America's credibility.  Similar comments came in a statement from the Constitution Project and Human Rights First.

Those who prefer to use military commissions to try suspected terrorists say the procedure offers more protection for the government to keep secret intelligence methods and sensitive information.

"The military version of that in the military commissions is far more protective in terms of the presumptions that are afforded to the government, far more protective of our national security secrets," said Charles Stimson, a legal expert with the Heritage Foundation and a recent guest on VOA's "Encounter" program.  

But other legal experts say the federal court system also includes numerous safeguards to prevent the disclosure of information related to national security.

Aitan Goelman is a former federal prosecutor now in private law practice.  He says the Obama administration will have a difficult time explaining to the world why some suspected terrorists should be tried in civilian courts and some in military commissions.

"There is no question that federal courts can handle cases against terrorists," Goelman said. "The question is at what cost and where is it smart for these people to be tried?  And I have not seen anybody from the administration kind of articulate a principled distinction between the people who they are sending to federal criminal court and the people who they say should be tried by military commissions."

If the change in legal strategy is announced, it may make it easier for the administration to secure funding from Congress to eventually close the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  The administration missed its self-imposed deadline of closing the facility within a year of Mr. Obama taking office.  Congressional opposition to the move intensified late last year after the attorney general announced the decision to try the 9-11 suspects in federal court.  

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid