Congress and White House Must Stand By Decision On 9/11 Trials
Mike Brownfield /
Following Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement Monday that the United States would try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-conspirators in military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, The Heritage Foundation’s Senior Legal Fellow, Cully Stimson, testified at a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday on the 9/11 trials. Stimson’s message? The right decision on military commissions has finally been made; now Congress and the White House must stand by it and fully resource them to ensure their success:
[T]he administration and Congress must take every reasonable step to ensure that the trial is an exemplar of justice and the rule of law. This will take resources. Chief among them are the attorneys who will prosecute and defend the case—we need the very best our country has to offer …
And justice is expensive. Congress and the administration must provide ample funds necessary for both the defense and government to employ expert witnesses, travel to investigate cases and prepare for trial, and myriad other logistical matters associated with a national security case. If we do not provide full resources for this trial, justice cannot be done, and the trial will always be subject to question and doubts.
That would be an unacceptable result. The victims of 9/11 deserve justice. We have waited too long.
Stimson also emphasized the broader point that, going forward, certain cases will require the use of military commissions not, civilian courts:
[F]or practical reasons, certain cases face hurdles to trial in civilian courts and will need to be brought before military commissions. In federal court, criminal defendants receive the full panoply of procedural and substantive rights guaranteed by the Constitution. But those guarantees were never intended to extend to enemy belligerents, and indeed, they would render effective prosecution in many cases impossible …
Addressing concerns regarding procedural protections for defendants, Stimson noted:
[C]ompare the procedural protections and rules contained in the Military Commissions Act of 2009 to standard U.S. courts-martial and other international tribunals—as I have—and you will see that today’s commissions offer unlawful combatants more robust due process and protections that any international tribunal ever created.
Click here to read Stimson’s full testimony before the House.