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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened 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.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
AppleAndroid