Recent debate surrounds which federal court can provide the most effective security for federal prosecution of terrorism suspects
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 29, 2010
CONTACT: Matthew Allee, (202) 580-6922 or firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON – The Constitution Project applauds the Obama administration for standing firm in its commitment to conduct the previously-announced September 11th trials in federal court. In recent days, there has been extensive media buzz about the planned trials of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others in federal court in the Southern District of New York, with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other city and state officials stating their support for a shift in venue for the trials. In asking the Department of Justice to consider moving the trial out of New York City, the administration has correctly focused on where the trials should be held and has not retreated from its decision to rely on our traditional federal courts.
“What needs to remain clear with all the talk of moving the 9/11 trials out of New York City is that the Obama administration correctly remains committed to prosecuting these September 11th defendants in our traditional federal courts,” said Virginia Sloan, president of the Constitution Project. “This is not a discussion of federal courts vs. military commissions. The administration has made its decision in favor of federal courts – a decision that has widespread bipartisan support. The public must know that the current debate is about which federal court is the most appropriate location for these trials.”
Just last week, during a panel discussion in New York hosted by the Constitution Project, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Open Society Institute, Federal District Court Judge John C. Coughenour, who presided over the terrorism trial of the “millennium bomber,” raised the question of changing the location of a federal court trial, while emphasizing our commitment to the Constitution and the rule of law in prosecuting terrorism suspects. He said:
“Another set of rules that are consistent with our Constitution – it’s hard for me to conceive what those rules would be….We either live up to our commitment to our Constitution, or we shouldn’t profess to be what we say we are….The question of whether a judge will transfer venue of these cases from the Southern District to somewhere else is one that will be interesting to watch play out. One thing that someone might consider is the possibility of transferring these cases to a remote court in a much more rural setting where every stranger in town will be immediately identified and where the security problems will be minuscule compared to what they will be trying [them] here.”
The Constitution Project, along with Human Rights First, organized Beyond Guantanamo: A Bipartisan Declaration calling on the Obama administration and Congress to support a policy for closing Guantanamo that is consistent with our constitutional principles and also ensures our country’s security. Joined by nearly 140 prominent Americans, including former members of Congress, diplomats, federal judges and prosecutors, high-level military and government officials, as well as national security and foreign policy experts, bar leaders, and family members of 9/11 victims, the Declaration supports prosecution of terrorism suspects in traditional federal court, rather than by military commission, and opposes indefinite detention without charge.
Click here to see the video of last week’s event, “One Year and Counting: When and How Will Guantanamo Close?”
Click here to view a copy of the Declaration and signatories.