9-11 Defendants to be Given Real Trials as Holder Stands on Principle — Sort Of

holdererickhalid_shaikh_mohammed_2 Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered actual trials for five 9/11 suspects rather than military tribunals. The decision places the United States squarely back on the road of the rule of law in giving due process even to our most hated defendants. The five defendants include 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The other four are Waleed bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi and Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali. However, this courageous act was diminished by an inexplicable decision of Holder to order five other defendants — including USS Cole suspect Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri — be tried in a military tribunal. I discussed this decision on this segment of MSNBC Countdown.

Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn condemned the move as putting “political ideology ahead of the safety of the American people just to fulfill an ill-conceived campaign promise.” I am not sure what ideology means but I assume it is a reference to the Constitution. What makes us safer is to offer the world an alternative to these men; to show that we are not the hypocrites that we appeared during the Bush Administration.

The decision to send some detainees to military tribunals, however, is a baffling contradiction. Holder has denied the Administration the high ground in the debate by trying to appease both sides and deny due process to some of these accused individuals. It is a case of snatching hypocrisy out of the jaws of principle.

For the full story, click here.

22 thoughts on “9-11 Defendants to be Given Real Trials as Holder Stands on Principle — Sort Of”

  1. Why gloss over the Pentagon attack of 9/11. That was a military target. Doesn’t that fact obscure the distinction between 9/11 and the Cole attack. Can a military tribunal for KSM be justified on that basis?

  2. ThomDArch,

    That is a great point. Wow, LEO, evening up the score for an acquittal. That would really surprise me. NOT.

  3. Would someone please explain how having this trial in New York isn’t wildly problematic regarding jury bias? Never mind that to find jurors who don’t already know much about the case would require a jury of developmentally disabled people who have been recently rescued from having been lost in the NY sewer system for the last 10 years. I strongly suspect that the jurors will figure out that if they return an acquittal, there are a lot of people who will try to kill them, probably including a few NY police officers.

  4. This is interesting:

    “For Justice For Iraq: Legal Case Filed Against Four US Presidents and Four UK Prime Ministers for War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide in Iraq | Press Release

    Madrid: Today the Spanish Senate, acting to confirm a decision already taken under pressure from powerful governments accused of grave crimes, will limit Spain’s laws of universal jurisdiction. Yesterday, ahead of the change of law, a legal case was filed at the Audiencia Nacional against four United States presidents and four United Kingdom prime ministers for commissioning, condoning and/or perpetuating multiple war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Iraq.

    This case, naming George H W Bush, William J Clinton, George W Bush, Barack H Obama, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Anthony Blair and Gordon Brown, is brought by Iraqis and others who stand in solidarity with the Iraqi people and in defence of their rights and international law.” (from afterdowningstreet.org)

  5. Who is this “Turley” character? Sheesh… the junk that slips through onto this website sometimes…

  6. “Amerstates,” you must really be threatened by Rachel Maddow, or why even mention her at all? If she really has “no audience,” why bother to state her name on an unrelated blog such as this? I maintain that she has a very important audience, but unlike the FOX audience, it is one which is educated and extremely intelligent. Rachel’s audience, and that of MSNBC’s entire prime time, is one which is catered to by the sponsors because it has great purchasing power, unlike the old right wing “fuddy-duddies” of FOX Noise!

  7. With great respect, I felt you did not stress the disappointing side of this event enough on Countdown. Is it not pure show-boat to have some “fair” trials if you know beforehand that you will get convictions and then have some “not so fair” trials (military commissions) in cases where you’re not positive of a conviction, and no trials at all in cases where you’re sure you have no case? You mentioned commissions almost as an afterthought and didn’t mention at all – this time at least – that some prisoners are being held indefinitely without right to any kind of trail.

    Correct me if I’m missing something. Why so tepid? You usually nail the issue cold in 5 seconds or less…

  8. Prof. Turley: Thank you for posting your interview; I would much rather view it here than following other links. It is also more relevant within you own blawg.

  9. From Jill’s Greenwald quote:

    “In other words, there’s no categorical determination driving the process (e.g., all those who attack military targets get commissions and all those who attack civilian targets get trials). To the contrary, federal prosecutors choose, in their sole discretion, the level of due process each defendant gets (including “none” — as in: indefinite detention with no trial)…”

    That is the logic I raised in my initial post. Military targets = military justice; civilian targets = civilian Federal justice except in times of justifiably determined wars vs. politically and commercially driven ‘conflicts’ for oil et cetera.

  10. I think glenn greenwald’s column is essential reading on this matter:

    ” Omar Khadr — the Canadian “child soldier” imprisoned at Guantanamo for the last seven years, since he was 15 years old, for allegedly throwing a grenade at an American soldier in Afghanistan (that’s apparently “terrorism”) and the subject of a difficult-to-watch video of him weeping like the child he is while being interrogated — will reportedly be one of those denied a trial and instead allowed only a military commission, according to Canada’s Canwest News Service (h/t sysprog):

    Canadian-born terror suspect Omar Khadr faces continued prosecution in the U.S. military tribunal established in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. . . .

    The federal system offers the full panoply of defendant rights available to U.S. citizens under the U.S. Constitution, while civil rights groups have argued the military commissions at the U.S. naval base in Cuba do not meet that standard.

    The decision regarding Khadr means that the Obama administration has, for now at least, rejected calls by his U.S. and Canadian defence teams for the repatriation of the Canadian-born terror suspect” . . . My view is, he should be prosecuted,” said navy Capt. John Murphy, chief prosecutor in the military commissions system.

    So even for 15-year-olds who we imprison for seven years with no charges, we refuse to give them a trial. And note how the Canadian press account stresses our multi-tiered system of justice and how their citizen is receiving second-tier due process — an observation that one can be sure will repeat itself worldwide.

    UPDATE II: In his Press Release, Eric Holder says his decisions today were “based on a protocol that the Departments of Justice and Defense developed” whereby he “looked at all the relevant factors and made case by case decisions for each detainee.” In other words, there’s no categorical determination driving the process (e.g., all those who attack military targets get commissions and all those who attack civilian targets get trials). To the contrary, federal prosecutors choose, in their sole discretion, the level of due process each defendant gets (including “none” — as in: indefinite detention with no trial), and Holder himself emphasized that “it is important that we be able to use every forum possible to hold terrorists accountable for their actions.”

    There’s supposed to be one justice system for everyone — not multiple ones from which prosecutors can pick and choose based on assurances of ongoing imprisonment. Highlighting how dangerous this is, the DOJ’s investigation of al-Nashiri was originally classified as a standard criminal case, but — as his counsel pointed out today — he was assigned to a military commission because there simply isn’t sufficient evidence to convict him in a real court.”

  11. if we captured Osama bin laden (alive), would he also stand trial in civilian court in downtown New York?

  12. amerstates,

    the liberals will surrender America and the conservatives will sell it to the highest bidder. Who wins?

  13. Liberals will surrender America. Ask Rachel Maddow, the loser on MSNBC with no audience.

  14. So Justice Delayed is Justice Denied. Exactly what is a fair trial may I inquire? What is a Jury of your Piers supposed to be, where will you find them? Where will you find 12 people in the US that do not have a preconceived ideal of the facts surrounding this matter. Where do you think you will find somebody that has not heard of this or have known somebody not affected by this.

    I am lad that this is not being tried in the MCJ.

  15. Nal, good point. I think evidence obtained from 183 waterboardings will not be admissible, but Holder must feel confident about other evidence he has to bring these particular accused to federal court. Maybe there is not enough of that kind of evidence on the ones who will be tried in tribunals and evidence obtained under questionable means might be more accepted there. I don’t see how Holder can be selective on who gets due process and who doesn’t, but then he was very selective on who would be investigated for torture and who would not.

  16. FFLEO,

    THanks for the link. I think this and what nal said is the whole point. Great propaganda in the headlines with predetermined outcomes all around! This was very cynical of the administration. It’s a new low, even for them.

  17. What?! This is a legal Catch-22. Where is the justice in being detained *forever* by the military after a defendant/suspect is acquitted in a federal civilian trial?

    The attorney general dodged questions about what might happen in the event of an acquittal. He repeatedly answered that he did not expect an acquittal.

    But the US government retains another option. The Obama administration has made clear that it intends to continue the Bush administration’s policy of indefinitely detaining without charge individuals it deems are too dangerous to be set free.

    Under this regime, an acquitted suspect could be moved back into open-ended military detention, legal analysts say.

  18. The AG may not have the evidence, acceptable in a court of law, to get a conviction of the other five, and has to go the military tribunal route.

  19. Perhaps Holder used the reasoning that since the USS Cole was a military target that case justified a military tribunal, which seems plausible.

    Also, from the CNN link, the following quote seems like one more reasonable justification for having a trial v. a military tribunal for the others.


    “Nadler said the families of the victims of the September 11 attacks deserve the opportunity “to see these trials and confront these defendants in open court.”


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