140+ 9/11 victims' families: Bring suspects before tribunals

More than 140 survivors of those killed on Sept. 11 are now pining Senate lawmakers to keep the attack's suspected planners out of federal courts.

In a letter to the chamber, sent on Thursday, the families urge lawmakers to support Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-S.C.) amendment, which would essentially ensure that the terror suspects would be tried instead before military tribunals.

"We adamantly oppose prosecuting the 9/11 conspirators in Article III courts, which would provide them with the very rights that may make it possible for them to escape the justice which they so richly deserve," the victims wrote. "We believe that military commissions, which have a long and honorable history in this country dating back to the Revolutionary War, are the appropriate legal forum for the individuals who declared war on America."

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"With utter disdain for all norms of decency and humanity, and in defiance of the laws of warfare accepted by all civilized nations, these individuals targeted tens of thousands of civilian non-combatants, brutally killing 3,000 men,
women and children, injuring thousands more, and terrorizing millions." they added, stressing the importance of Graham's amendment. "We urge its passage by all those members of the United States Senate who stood on the senate
floor eight years ago and declared that the perpetrators of these attacks would answer to the American people."

The debate over the proper forum before which to bring suspected 9/11 plotters grew most intense in October, after White House officials reaffirmed they wanted to retain the ability to prosecute them before the court of their choosing.

Republicans, however, balked at such an idea, arguing that federal courts in particular were ill-equipped to handle cases of such magnitude.

But the White House has since fired back, insisting Graham's amendment would "would be unwise, and would set a dangerous precedent." The Obama administration remains steadfastly opposed to forcing the 9/11 suspects to be tried only before military tribunals, and it has indicated a willingness to fight for that goal.

The families who wrote to Senate lawmakers on Thursday, however, clearly disagree, and they scolded the White House for advancing a double standard.

"We strongly object to the President creating a two-tier system of justice for terrorists in which those  responsible for the death of thousands on 9/11 will be treated as common criminals and afforded the kind of platinum due process accorded American citizens, yet members of Al Qaeda who aspire to kill Americans but who do not yet have blood on their hands, will be treated as war criminals," they wrote.