9/11 Victims' Families Send Letter Decrying Politicization Of Guantánamo Military Commissions

June 3, 2008 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

CONTACT: (646) 206-8643 or (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

NEW YORK — Family members of 9/11 victims have sent a letter today to Susan Crawford, Convening Authority of the Guantánamo military commissions, sharply criticizing the politicization of the system. According to news reports, a Pentagon representative secretly invited an outspoken supporter of the military commissions to Guantánamo Bay for Thursday’s arraignment of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other detainees on terrorism-related charges, but did not make this option available to family members who have expressed criticism of the commissions. This type of politicization is symptomatic of the unconstitutional and biased tribunal system, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The letter echoes the widespread call for a system to try the Guantánamo detainees that adheres to the Constitution, stating, “As people who lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks of 9/11, we want nothing more than to see that justice is served in the prosecution of suspects. However, we know that no justice will come out of a system that has been compromised by politics and stripped of the rule of law.”

The military commission proceedings have been subject to unlawful political influence since they started. After holding detainees for over six years, the government is now rushing through these cases, giving the defense just three months to prepare for a trial timed to begin only weeks before the November elections.

“The American public has every right to expect that prosecutions of 9/11 suspects will be conducted in a fair, open and honest manner that is not compromised by crass political considerations. Selectively inviting only 9/11 family members whose views are in alignment with those of the Bush administration is only one example of the repeated attempts to infuse politics into what should be an impartial process that has the goal of achieving justice,” the letter stated.

Since the inception of the Bush administration’s military commissions, a growing number of lawyers, legal scholars, government officials, military personnel and others have raised concerns about prosecuting detainees under a system that ignores the fundamental tenets of due process and allows the admission of highly questionable evidence – particularly evidence possibly obtained through torture. According to the ACLU, these cases belong in a civilian court of law or a traditional military court operating in accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice that upholds due process and in which judges and attorneys are held to constitutional obligations and accountable to the rule of law.

In April, the ACLU launched the John Adams Project — a partnership with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) — to provide civilian legal representation to assist under-resourced military counsel of Guantánamo detainees.

For more information on the ACLU and NACDL’s John Adams Project, see: www.aclu.org/johnadams

The letter is available online at:

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release