By Jonathan Abrams, NSJ Staff Editor –
The Justice Department, in an attempt to bolster its argument that suspected terrorists can be tried in civilian courts, released a report earlier this month that includes a chart detailing over 400 convictions of terrorists obtained in such courts. But this effort has not halted GOP criticism of the wisdom of civilian trials for terrorists.
The Justice Department’s report is part of an effort to push back against Republican opposition to the decision to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) in a civilian court in New York City. The chart purports to demonstrate the U.S. government’s proven success in trying terrorists in civilian courts; the Justice Department contends that it has obtained even more convictions than those listed, as it does not include ones that remain under seal or that solely involved domestic terrorism.
Republicans remain unsatisfied. Senator Jeff Sessions, Ranking Member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, responded that the vast majority of convictions involve document fraud and immigration violations, a far cry from the crimes with which KSM will likely be charged. Sen. Sessions’s comments focused on the trial of Zaccarias Moussaoui, the so-called “20th hijacker”, which, he contends, was “fraught with procedural problems, delays, appeals, risks to classified evidence, and even a lone holdout juror who spared [Moussaoui] the death penalty.” Such problems will be experienced in future terrorism trials, according to Sessions. He continues to call for the use of military commissions, as he believes they are “consistent with our laws, history, security, and values . . . .”
Image courtesy of the Associated Press