Republicans pounce on terror trial verdict

Republicans sought to take political advantage of a court decision acquitting a former Guantanamo Bay detainee on all but one charge.

Top GOP figures have roundly criticized the verdict on Wednesday in federal criminal court that cleared Ahmed Ghailani, an alleged figure in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa, of 284 counts. Chailani was convicted on one count of conspiracy to damage or destroy U.S. property.

"I am disgusted at the total miscarriage of justice today in Manhattan’s federal civilian court," said Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "This tragic verdict demonstrates the absolute insanity of the Obama Administration’s decision to try al-Qaeda terrorists in civilian courts."

The Ghailani case has become somewhat of a proxy battle between the Obama administration and Republicans in Congress over the topic of civilian trials for terror suspects. King and other GOP leaders have fought against bringing alleged terrorists detained at Guantanamo Bay to the continental U.S. for trial, in civilian courts rather than military tribunals.

"We respect the jury’s verdict and are pleased that Ahmed Ghailani now faces a minimum of 20 years in prison and a potential life sentence for his role in the embassy bombings," said a Justice Department spokesman in a statement about the verdict on Wednesday.

(A senior administration official further defended the decision to ABC News on Thursday.)

Still, the resurgent Republicans in Congress have seized on the verdict as an opportunity to make the case against civilian trials for terror suspects -- something they may be better-positioned to do once they retake control of the House in January.

"While I respect the judgment of the court, I’m deeply disappointed in the verdict," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). "We are at war with Al Qaeda.  Members of the organization, and their associates, should be treated as warriors, not common criminals.  We put our nation at risk by criminalizing the war."