This week, the House of Representatives will consider legislation authorizing military tribunals for suspected terrorists. This action was spurred by a Supreme Court decision issued in June in the case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.
Salim Ahmed Hamdan was an al Qaeda operative who had close personal contacts with Osama bin Laden. He was captured in Afghanistan fighting against American troops, detained, and transferred to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Hamdan - a citizen of Yemen - claimed that he deserved the due process privileges enjoyed by American citizens.
The Supreme Court stopped short of agreeing with Hamdan but ruled that - without Congressional authorization - the federal government lacked the authority to bring him to justice through a military tribunal. This brings us to where we are today. Congress is faced with two choices: we can do nothing, and allow terrorists like Hamdan to either go free or go on trial in an American civilian court. Or we can authorize tribunals for terrorists. When it comes to administering common sense justice to terrorists, I believe terrorist tribunals are the answer.
By authorizing these military tribunals, Congress can draw the parameters for detaining and administering justice to terrorists like Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, the driving force behind the terror attacks of September 11th. We can deliver justice to Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, one of al Qaeda's top lieutenants and one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists. He has already been indicted for his role in the East Africa Embassy bombings in August 1998.
The list goes on. Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi managed the funding for the 9/11 hijackings. Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was the mastermind and local manager of the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in October 2000. And Ramzi Bin al-Shibh served as an intermediary between the September 11th hijackers in the U.S. and al Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan. None of these terrorists are U.S. citizens. Each is in U.S. custody. And each has proven links to Osama bin Laden and his terror network.
Putting terrorists like these on trial in a civilian court would provide them with access to classified information. Such information - if it fell into the wrong hands - could be exploited on the battlefield to harm American troops.
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