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Reversing its political decision to try KSM in New York, the Obama administration should decide to try all terrorists in military commissions.

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Don’t Close Gitmo: Try All the Terrorists There

Reversing its political decision to try KSM in New York, the Obama administration should decide to try all terrorists in military commissions.

Our Constitution and common sense won a big battle when the Obama administration unofficially announced it had reversed its decision to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other 9-11 planners in a New York City federal court. Though the White House denies it has made a final decision on the New York trials, it’s apparent that the political decision to try the al Qaeda members there is being revised.

The whole idea made no sense.  Despite overwhelming legal and ethical arguments to the contrary, not to mention a vast majority of citizens being against it, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder were, for months, insisting that KSM and four of his cohorts would be tried by a civilian court here in New York. Historical precedent, justice, reason, logic, and yes, security risks and massive financial burden to the city are all firmly on the side of trying these terrorists as war criminals in a military tribunal, not in a NYC civilian court.
 
There is no requirement under the U.S. Constitution, American statutory law (or for that matter, in the Law of War) to grant these jihadists the right to a civilian trial.  Frankly, there is no reason to grant them most of the rights given U.S. citizens.  Quite the contrary, the terrorists who planned the 9/11 attacks should be treated as enemy combatants in a war against the United States and tried in a military tribunal, not as common civilian criminals.  
 
Just picture it.  You thought O.J.’s trial was a big deal?  Trying these terrorists in any civilian court would let them star on the world’s largest media stage, which is, of course, exactly what they want.  Can you imagine the damage they could cause?  In addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars in security costs (per year), the very real physical risks to American citizens are incalculable, as are the worldwide risks of evermore effective terrorist attacks resulting from the revelation of hyper-sensitive U.S. intelligence that could happen in a civilian trial.  

The Obama administration is now faced with a choice: either move the cases to another civilian court in the United States — causing much the same dangers and costs as New York civilian trials would — or leaving these cases, and the cases of all other captured terrorists, in the military commissions where they belong.  And to do so — given the open-ended nature of this war — President Obama should also reverse his decision to close the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where these prisoners should be kept, and subject those who face charges now or later to trial in military commissions.

We don’t know what President Obama will choose to do.  But his determination to close Gitmo and move terrorist cases into civilian courts seems unshaken.  
 
So what can we do?  Do we have to just lie down and take it?  No, there’s actually a pretty simple way to stop it.  With a simple majority vote, congress can refuse to fund any civilian trials for terrorists and refuse to fund the closing of Gitmo and movement of terrorist prisoners from there to the United States.  That’s it.  That’s all it would take.  The Administration would then be forced to reconsider their options and would ultimately decide to try these animals in a military tribunal (as has been done for hundreds of years, don’t forget), where they would receive the justice they deserve.
 
As you may have read, some members of New York’s Congressional delegation have already been working on the issue of the trial’s funding.  But that was never the main issue; Rather than trying to stop the trial by defunding it, trying to " bring home the bacon" by asking that the Federal government pay New York City for the hundreds of millions of dollars of security costs associated with this show trial.  The civilian trial should never happen in the first place, no matter who pays for it.  It simply makes no sense.
 
The necessary security for an unnecessary trial:  Last week, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly unveiled the understandably necessary security plan for the possibly-cancelled KSM trial.  Kelly described how there will be a “soft perimeter” from Canal Street South and West from Broadway.  This entire area would be monitored and patrolled by police officers."
 
In addition, the “hard perimeter” will consist of metal gates, car searches, radiation monitors, and inspection points, not to mention snipers and bomb sniffing dogs.  It will surround the federal court house, One Police Plaza, other governmental buildings as well as some private residences.  
 
Would you want to live or work under these conditions?  For years?  Would you even want to go to downtown Manhattan — or wherever else in America the trials may yet occur — if you did not have to?  
 
Of course not.  The decision by President Obama and Attorney General Holder to move the KSM trial to New York was a political one, and it was reversed for political reasons:  even many congressional Democrats had signaled their opposition to the move.

It’s wrong to play politics with terrorism.  Please join us in sending a clear message to the president:  keep Gitmo open and set it as the place for any and all terrorist trials.
 
It simply makes no sense.

Written By

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) is the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee and also serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Former Congressman Vito Fossella (R.-N.Y.) represented Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn from 1997-2009.

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