Legislation Introduced To Block Funding For Criminal Trials Of Accused 9/11 Planners

February 3, 2010 12:46 pm

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Bill Mirrors Amendment Defeated Last Year

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WASHINGTON – Late Tuesday, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced a bill that would prohibit the use of Justice Department funds to prosecute the accused 9/11 plotters in federal court. Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) introduced a companion bill in the House that would do the same thing.

Senator Graham attempted to attach a nearly identical amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act in November. That amendment was defeated by a vote of 54-45. The cosponsors of the bill introduced in the Senate today were the same senators who voted for Graham’s failed amendment last fall. The proposal has not picked up any additional supporters.

Both the Senate and House bills would obstruct the Obama administration’s plans to prosecute the 9/11 suspects in federal court, reopening the possibility that they would be tried in the discredited military commissions system instead. The American Civil Liberties Union strongly believes that the appropriate place to try terrorism suspects is in federal criminal court, and that the military commissions are a second class system of justice which should be shut down for good.

The following can be attributed to Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel:

“This is a case of déjà vu, with the same senators introducing the same legislation that was rejected by the Senate less than three months ago. The Senate already rejected this proposal, and there is no reason to play out the same scenario over and over again. Congress should stop trying to interfere with criminal prosecutions and let experienced Justice Department prosecutors go forward with criminal trials of the alleged September 11 plotters. The U.S. has successfully tried and convicted more than 200 international defendants on terrorism crimes in federal courts. We see no reason for Congress not to dismiss these bills as easily as Senator Graham’s amendment was dismissed last year.”

The following can be attributed to Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project:

“Despite pressure from Congress and other sources, the Obama administration should stay the course and try the 9/11 suspects in federal courts, where they belong. The administration made the correct decision when it announced that the 9/11 suspects would be brought to justice in our federal courts, and reversing course due to political pressure would be a miscarriage of American justice. The Constitution does not include an on-off switch. Terrorists are criminals, not warriors, and the U.S. should try all terrorism cases in federal courts where they belong.

“Our federal courts are more than capable of handling sensitive security issues while preserving American values and legal standards. On the other hand, even with recent improvements, the military commission system is designed to ensure convictions rather than fair trials, and still fails to ensure basic due process guaranteed by U.S. and international law.”

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