Constitution Project Joins Coalition Letter Opposing Proposed Legislation Barring Prosecution of Some Suspected Terrorists in Federal Courts

Senator Graham’s bill would be a sharp break from current U.S. law

CONTACT: Matthew Allee, (202) 580-6922 or

WASHINGTON – Earlier today, the Constitution Project joined with 14 other advocacy organizations in sending a letter to the United States Senate, urging senators to oppose S. 2977, legislation recently introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that would prohibit the Department of Justice from using funds to prosecute the alleged planners or conspirators of the September 11 attacks in tradition federal courts. Senator Graham sought similar legislative language in November, when he proposed an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill, which was then rejected by a vote of 54 to 45.

In November, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government would pursue prosecutions of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other Guantanamo Bay detainees in a federal court in New York for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In the past month, the Obama administration has begun to consider other locations for the federal trial, while rightly remaining committed to using federal courts. Today’s letter opposes the proposed legislation that would deny the administration its best tool in prosecuting terrorism suspects.

The letter states, in part:

“…S. 2977 would block the Department of Justice from access to the most effective courts for criminal prosecution…. [It] would hinder efforts to put to rest a legacy of a failed detention policy. The detentions at Guantanamo Bay are a blot on the reputation of the United States that harms U.S. national security and foreign policy interests. There is widespread agreement among national security and foreign policy experts—including General David Petraeus, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and five former Secretaries of State from both parties that closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility is essential to U.S. counterterrorism efforts and to repairing the standing of the United States as a country committed to human rights and the rule of law.

“The legislation would deny the Obama administration a highly effective prosecution tool—trial before regular federal courts…. Adhering to the rule of law both protects human rights and enhances national security. We urge you to oppose S. 2977.”

Click here to view a copy of the letter.

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 view a copy of the Declaration and signatories.

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