Holder defends federal terrorism trials, dismisses critics as 'simply wrong'

Attorney General Eric Holder staunchly maintained that federal courts are capable of handling terrorism cases Saturday, accusing critics of the approach of "ignoring reality."

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, Holder was unflinching in maintaining that the U.S. court system is the right place to try terrorists, and dismissed any argument to the contrary.

"Let me be clear: those who claim that our federal courts are incapable of handling terrorism cases are not registering a dissenting opinion," he said. "They are simply wrong."

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Speaking at a commencement ceremony for the University of California Berkeley School of Law, Holder made a spirited case for processing terrorism suspects through the nation's legal system, as opposed to unique arrangements like Guantanamo. He contended that trying terrorists via the traditional legal means is effective, safe, and validated by history.

"Hundreds are properly, safely and securely held in our federal prisons, not Guantanamo, today. Not one has ever escaped custody. No judicial district has suffered a retaliatory attack of any kind," he said. "I defy anyone, on the merits, to challenge these assertions."

As the U.S. builds its case against the surviving alleged Boston bomber, Dzhokar Tsarnaev, Holder said that anyone who would argue that civilian courts are not the proper place is airing "tired and meritless arguments."

"Every legal professional, every aspiring leader, and every graduate in this crowd today must renew your commitment to standing firm – in the face of manufactured controversy and overheated partisan rhetoric – to uphold our most sacred values," he said.

Holder also contended that in the wake of 9/11, the fear and uncertainty of the attack drove policymakers to "abandon our values in pursuit of information."

"We used techniques that were of questionable effectiveness, but were certainly inconsistent with who we say we are as a people," he said.

Holder blasted lawmakers for imposing "unwise and unwarranted restrictions" on where detainees could be held and processed.

Rather, he contended that it was at the times of greatest uncertainty that the legal structure the nation was founded upon needed to stand the test.

"At times of maximum danger we must always restrain the impulse to implement that which we might think to be effective but, indeed, is surely inconsistent with our treasured values," he said.


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