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Banning Civilian Courts to Prosecute Terrorists Would Harm National Security, Says Eric Holder

3 mins read


eric_holder_1In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday outlining the recent progress of the Department of Justice, Attorney General Eric Holder spoke about the problem with determining which forum would be appropriate for the 9/11 suspects to be tried.

Asked to report on DOJ’s work, priorities and goals, Holder detailed thwarted terrorist plots and mentioned how the DOJ detected and disrupted a plan to attack the New York City subways. He also mentioned securing a guilty plea from David Headley for assisting the attacks in Mumbai in November 2008, as well as obtaining the cooperation of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to bomb an airliner landing in Detroit last Christmas.

At a time when questions have been raised about the role of U.S. courts, it is important to note most of these convictions came during the last administration, which made the criminal justice system an integral component of its counterterrorism strategy, Holder said. The former administration used the criminal justice system to interrogate, prosecute and incarcerate terrorists for the same reason the Obama administration has: It is an extremely effective tool to ensure justice and protect the security of the American people, Holder continued.

Speaking about the prosecution of those charged with plotting the 9/11 attacks, Holder said no final decision has been made about the forum in which Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-defendants will be tried.

“It should be clear to everyone by now that there are many legal, national security and practical factors to be considered here,” he said. “As a consequence, there are many perspectives on what the most appropriate and effective forum is. In making this decision, I can assure you that this administration has only one paramount goal: to ensure that justice is done in this case. In the pursuit of justice, we will enforce the law and protect the American people.”

When Holder attended an awards dinner for the Constitution Project yesterday, he commented on the proposal by some members of the Congress to ban the use of civilian courts in prosecutions of terrorism-related activity and said it would harm national security.

“Without civilian law enforcement and civilian courts, we would be denied the use of what has been our most effective weapon for disrupting, dismantling and defeating terror plots,” Holder said. “It would hinder our ability to secure actionable intelligence, and to enlist international cooperation, in our fight against terrorism. It would deny us the means to punish the guilty and deter those who would commit crimes against us. And it would be a disservice to the history of our civilian justice system. There’s no question that if such a plan advances, it would seriously harm our national security.”

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