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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing 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.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid