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Clinton Defends Trying Terrorism Suspects in Civilian Courts

3 years ago
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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday defended the use of civilian courts to try detainees at Guantanamo suspected of terrorism, and said some of the same obstacles to use of evidence that resulted in last week's acquittal of a defendant on more than 280 charges would also have been faced by a military tribunal.

Clinton was commenting on the case of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani who was being tried in federal court in New York for his alleged role in the 1998 terrorist bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Tanzania, which claimed the lives of 224 people, including 12 Americans. Ghailani's defense contended he was an unwitting "dupe" of al-Qaeda operatives.

Ghailani was acquitted of all but one of the charges against him. He was convicted only on one count of conspiracy to destroy government buildings and property. A key reason for the outcome was the judge's decision in the case to exclude a key witness who the government admitted it knew about through information it had obtained from Ghailani during coercive interrogations while he was in CIA custody.

Ahmed Ghalfan GhailaniAlthough Ghailani still faces 20 years in prison, the outcome of the trial was seen as a blow for the Obama administration which wants to pursue its course of using federal courts instead of military tribunals whenever possible, in a departure from the practices of the Bush administration.

Republican critics of the Obama policy had quickly seized on the outcome of the trial. Rep. Peter King, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee said after the verdict, "I am disgusted at the total miscarriage of justice today in Manhattan's federal civilian court. This tragic verdict demonstrates the absolute insanity of the Obama administration's decision to try al-Qaeda terrorists in civilian courts."

However, asked on CBS' Face the Nation whether the administration should rethink its policy, Clinton said, "I don't believe so ... The terrorists who are serving time in our maximum security prisons are there because of civilian courts, what are called Article Three Courts. Our Article Three Courts have a much better record of trying and convicting terrorists than military commissions do, and in fact this defendant having been convicted will be sentenced somewhere between 20 years and life."

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She said that "some of the evidence that was presented (in the Ghailani trial) could not be used, but the rules of the military commission ... similarly would [disqualify] certain evidence."

"I think there's a misconception in our own country about what's admissible in terms of evidence in a civilian court versus a military commission," Clinton added, in an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press. "They don't have the same rules, but the rules are close enough in terms of what can or can't be admitted into evidence."

Clinton said she believes the "vast majority" of defendants can be tried in civilian courts, although there are some cases that should be reserved for military commissions.

Asked whether Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, said to be the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, should be tried in a civilian court, Clinton said, "that is a case that is a very difficult one because of all of the security issues and the other problems."

In her NBC interview, Clinton said, "The civilian courts have a better record of actually convicting and imprisoning than we do yet have in the military commission. But we also don't want to have security problems or publicity problems for particularly dangerous leading terrorists. So we should look at the military commission."

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75 Comments

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we love mario!!!

Just what is wrong with Hillary. These people should be tried in military court. I am glad she is not president. She is much too liberal !

November 22 2010 at 5:00 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Trish

I would like to see some facts to support her statements that civil courts have a higher rate of conviction. I have a hard time beleiving that just reading the newspaper and seeing the light sentences handed out for egregious crimes. I would think the opposite would be true. My cousin the military lawyer says the rules are quite different. Not that I offer an opinion either way. Just an inquiry.

November 22 2010 at 3:41 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
RDBACC

These people are prisoners of war and are not common criminals. They are not citizens, do not have the rights of an American citizen and do not belong in a civilian court. So we must house, at the tax payer expense, this war criminal and they gave hime 20 to life - is he eligible for parole in 20 yrs - does he have the chance to get off for good behavior, will he be educated in our prison systems, does he have to be kept out of general prison population? I hope not - maybe a patriotic convict will save the tax payers some money.

November 22 2010 at 10:56 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to RDBACC's comment
we love mario!!!

The convicts will kill these terrorists in jail. They will never make 20 years. I am sure some of the convicts know someone that died in 9-11 2001

November 22 2010 at 5:02 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
vicbar88

There you have it once again - an obvious show of support for foreign interests over the rights and security of our own. How can anyone see it any differently? It is as plain as the nose on your face. Diplomacy, Peace and Love and Tolerance are great in a fairy tale world but don't work in the real world where people actually want to kill you. Since the beginning of time the only real way to settle a conflict is to get rid of those who conflict with you. The real winner is the last one standing. Diplomacy only temporarily postpones the outcome until somebody else has to deal with it later after it has developed into a more serious issue. Didn't you ever wonder how our enemies do so well against us? It is because they have only one rule to war and one rule to treat their enemies - KILL THEM WHEREVER THEY ARE WITH ANY MEANS AVAILABLE- I guess they really aren't as stupid as we thought.

November 22 2010 at 7:22 AM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply
xwrench58

These animals are war criminals. They are not entitled to the same courts as American citizens.The Obama administration remains clueless to this fact. The thought of this administration being in charge for two more years is frightening.

November 21 2010 at 7:52 PM Report abuse +13 rate up rate down Reply
John/Kristine

Yes, of coarse, try them in civilian courts...especially after seeing how well that last trial worked out. Found guilty on one whole count! Nice job justice department!!

November 21 2010 at 4:22 PM Report abuse +22 rate up rate down Reply
vector26436

Hillary and Bill Clinton were Flower Children of the Woodstock era, with their long hair and Hillary's "Granny Glasses." A lot of Progressives of that era have become lawyers, professors, teachers and politicians. They will have great influence on the minds of our youth, both in grade school and college. The last two years have shown the mindset of the Progressive Movement in the attempt by Obama, and his administration to take over the control of our lives. This has prompted Middle America to rise up in the TEA Party Movement, after seeing where the Progressives are trying to take America. The tug of war is just beginning..

November 21 2010 at 3:27 PM Report abuse +33 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to vector26436's comment
dsnrntrng

You have said it better than anyone.

November 21 2010 at 4:16 PM Report abuse +20 rate up rate down Reply
Lee

rights under the Constitution are privilege granted only to American citizens these terrorists should recieve no more than basic human rights. any one who says they should have their day in court doesn't understand this. milatary tribunals are what's required here.Constitutional rights apply only to American citizens not everyone on the planet being an American citizen is a privilege

November 21 2010 at 2:46 PM Report abuse +44 rate up rate down Reply
vector26436

Hillary, who has never tried even a drunk driving arrest is an expert on trying terrorist? Give me a break...this killer, having been charged with over 100 charges, receives a conviction on one minor one which could be thrown out on appeal. Hillary is trying to defend Obama, and his incompetent Attorney General, both of which refused sound advise to try this animal in Gitmo, under Military Law. If he had been tried in Gitmo, the cost would not have been in the millions, and if convicted of killing over 200 people, he would have been executed very soon, not living a full life in a Federal prison at Taxpayer expense. What a travesty of justice.

November 21 2010 at 2:44 PM Report abuse +37 rate up rate down Reply
goatcars2

I wonder how Hillary would feel if a loved one was murdered by terorists??????

November 21 2010 at 2:20 PM Report abuse +37 rate up rate down Reply

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