Jan 26 2010

Graham Urges Attorney General to try Detainees in Military Commission

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jim Webb (D-VA), and John McCain (R-AZ) today called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to reverse his decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other alleged conspirators in the September 11, 2001 attacks in civilian court rather than military commissions.    The full text of the letter is below.

January 26, 2010

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

In light of recent events, we write to express our continuing concerns regarding the policies of this Administration with respect to those prisoners now detained at Guantanamo, and also any others who in the future might be charged with acts of international terrorism. We remain particularly concerned about using the U.S. criminal justice system for trying enemy combatants.

Of special importance due to time constraints and location, we strongly urge you to reconsider your decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other alleged conspirators in the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The attacks of 9/11 were acts of war, and those who planned and carried out those attacks are war criminals. Today, those who subscribe to the same violent ideology as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed continue to plan and execute attacks against innocent civilians all over the world. It is not in our national interest to provide them further publicity or additional advantage.

We and many others have already expressed serious concerns about whether a trial in civilian court might compromise classified evidence, including revealing sources and methods used by our intelligence community. We are also very concerned that, by bringing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorists responsible for 9/11 to the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan, only blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood, you will be providing them one of the most visible platforms in the world to exalt their past acts and to rally others in support of further terrorism. Such a trial would almost certainly become a recruitment and radicalization tool for those who wish us harm.

The security and other risks inherent in holding the trial in New York City are reflected in Mayor Bloomberg's recent letter to the administration advising that New York City will be required to spend more than $200 million per year in security measures for the trial. As Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly know too well, the threat of terrorist acts in New York City is a daily challenge. Holding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's trial in that city, and trying other enemy combatants in venues such as Washington, DC and northern Virginia, would unnecessarily increase the burden of facing those challenges, including the increased risk of terrorist attacks.

As you acknowledged in your testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in November, your decision to prosecute enemy combatants captured on foreign battlefields like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is without precedent in our nation's history. The challenges of containing and defeating international terrorism do not give us the proper moment to break that precedent. Given the risks and costs, it is far more logical, cost-effective, and strategically wise to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in the military commissions that Congress and the President have now established for that very purpose.