9/11 Suspects To Face Military

After years of debating whether the five suspects from the September 11 attacks will face federal or military court, it has finally

Attorney General Eric Holder gestures during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, Monday, April 4, 2011, where he announced plans to try avowed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged henchmen before a military commission. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

been decided. Instead of facing federal court in New York, they are going to be prosecuted by military commission, click here to view the full plan. The original plan to hold the trial in New York was announced by Attorney General, Eric Holder, in November of 2009. However, due to opposition from both the Democratic and Republican parties, the idea is no longer on the table.

Since Holder announced this, Congress has taken many steps to prevent a trial in New York from happening. They even passed legislation that prohibits bringing detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States. Holder was not happy with these decisions and said last Monday that these congressional restrictions are “unwise and unwarranted” and that a legislative body cannot make prosecutorial decisions. “We must face a simple truth: those restrictions are unlikely to be repealed in the immediate future,” Holder said.

While many people are happy about the change to a military tribunal, Holder believed that holding the trials in New York was the right decision. The Justice Department was prepared to bring a powerful case, and he believed civilian courts are harsher for terrorist cases. Despite widespread opposition, Holder was not alone. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, even agreed. He stated, “our justice system, which is the envy of the world, is more than capable of trying high-profile terrorism and national security cases.”

Due to the change, the government has released an indictment that outlined its case. It charged Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged henchmen with 10 counts relating to September 11, 2001. A judge dismissed the indictment when the trial plans were changed.

While the Attorney General has voiced his opinion about the change, so have others. The families of 9/11 victims applaud the change. Nancy Nee, sister of a New York City Firefighter, said that the five men are, “war criminals as far as I’m concerned and I think that a military trial is the right thing to do.”

The problem with a military trial is that many people do not consider them legitimate, or fair. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) criticized the change saying, “the military commission system is not about seeking justice as much as it is about obtaining convictions.” The ACLU brings up a good point, because military tribunals will not have to follow all of the procedures that the U.S. courts system do. They do not have to adhere to the constitution and this could cause an unfair trial.

Now that a change has been made, there is more uncertainty about what will happen to the detainees. Holder said that he does not know if they will face the death penalty if they plead guilty or where the trials will even be held. He said that it would be up to the Pentagon to have the trial at Guantanamo. In addition, there is still debate about whether there will be one trial, or five separate ones.

The change makes one thing evident; the families will need to wait longer for justice. It has been almost a decade since the attacks, and many have made it clear that everything needs to come to a swift end. Holder says, “we cannot simply allow a trial to be delayed any longer for the victims of the 9-11 attacks or their family members who have been waiting for nearly a decade for justice.”