January 24, 2010

Criticizing the Obama administration's decision to charge accused Christmas Day attacker Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the criminal court system, members of Congress are calling for legislation requiring intelligence officials to be consulted about how to handle terrorism suspects after their capture, arguing that options other than the criminal justice system should be considered. The Washington Post, in an editorial on January 23, supported this approach.

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WASHINGTON – Criticizing the Obama administration's decision to charge accused Christmas Day attacker Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the criminal court system, members of Congress are calling for legislation requiring intelligence officials to be consulted about how to handle terrorism suspects after their capture, arguing that options other than the criminal justice system should be considered. The Washington Post, in an editorial on January 23, supported this approach.

The members of Congress calling for the legislation are Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT), Robert Bennett (R-UT) and John Ensign (R-NV).

The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union:

"It is extremely disturbing that members of the U.S. Congress are essentially calling for Obama administration officials to discard the Constitution when a terrorist suspect is apprehended – as if the Constitution should be applied on a case by case basis. The whole idea of having constitutional protections is that they be applied across the board for all those accused of a crime. That is the only way for us to rely on our justice system and its results. Obeying the Constitution is not optional.

“The FBI was right to place Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the criminal justice system. Terrorism is a crime, and to treat terrorism that takes place far from any battlefield as an act of war is to propose that the entire world is a battlefield, to give criminals the elevated status of warriors and to invest whoever the current president may be with the authority to imprison a broad category of people potentially forever, without ever being afforded an opportunity to defend themselves. To abandon due process in terrorism cases turns the rule of law on its head and flies in the face of the values that we are fighting to protect in the first place. Our criminal justice system is fully capable of accommodating the government's legitimate security interests while at the same time providing fundamental rights to defendants.

“If we have learned nothing else over the last decade, we've learned that disregarding the rule of law leads to tragic consequences. This country is still trying to deal with the repercussions of the previous administration’s illegal torture and detention policies, which did immeasurable damage to America’s standing in the world.

"We hope that Congress will heed these lessons and show faith in our justice system, which has successfully prosecuted over 200 terrorism suspects. We must not abandon our most fundamental values to the threat of terrorism.”

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