The New York Civil Liberties Union today asked U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to express their support for holding the 9/11 trials in federal criminal court at a secure and practical location in the Southern District of New York.
“We urge Senators Schumer and Gillibrand to stand up for the American system of justice and support the Obama administration’s effort to try the 9/11 suspects in criminal courts in New York,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU executive director. “Our federal courts have an unparalleled track record for prosecuting terrorism cases, and it is only fitting that the trials be held here in New York where New Yorkers themselves can observe the trials. Our community deserves the real and reliable justice that only a fair, transparent hearing can deliver.”
In a letter sent today to Schumer and Gillibrand, the NYCLU argues that trying Khalid Sheik Mohammad and his co-defendants before military commissions would set a dangerous precedent for the use of military law for criminal justice purposes.
The NYCLU maintains that criminal law is better suited than military law to address the legal circumstances at issue in terrorism cases and strikes the appropriate balance between national security interests and the need for a fair, transparent process. Moreover, the federal courts have a demonstrated record of successfully prosecuting terrorism cases. Since 2001, more than 800 terrorism prosecutions have occurred in federal court, representing more than 300 cases.
In November, the Obama administration announced its intentions to try the 9/11 suspects at the federal courthouse in Foley Square in lower Manhattan. Since then, the legitimate practical concerns of New Yorkers who live or work near Foley Square have been twisted to suggest that New Yorkers do not want the trial to take place in the Southern District or in federal criminal courts altogether.
The NYCLU urged Schumer and Gillibrand to discount these misrepresentations. Its letter asks the senators to assist the Obama administration in finding a secure and practical site for the trials in the Southern District, such as Governors Island, the federal prison complex at Otisville or the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
“The 9/11 suspects should be tried here in New York for the murder of those killed at the World Trade Center,” said Udi Ofer, NYCLU advocacy director. “The families of 9/11 victims deserve the opportunity to witness the trial of the men accused of perpetrating such unspeakable evil. A verdict in federal court will have global legitimacy and it would represent a clean break from the lawlessness of the Bush administration’s fight against terrorism.”