By J. Taylor Rushing - 11/05/09 05:38 PM EST
Senate Republicans seeking to block civilian trials for Sept. 11, 2001,
conspirators received a boost Thursday with a letter that supports the
move, signed by 143 families of the victims.
In a letter addressed openly to the "United States Senate," the family members lobby for an amendment by Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamWhite House, business disappointed over lack of Ex-Im provision in spending bill Overnight Defense: Congress overrides Obama 9/11 veto | Pentagon breathes easy after funding deal | More troops heading to Iraq Senators already eyeing changes to 9/11 bill after veto override MORE (R-S.C.) that would “prohibit the use of funds for the prosecution in Article III courts of the United States of individuals involved in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.” Graham and other Republicans want the suspects tried instead in a military commission at the U.S. prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, after weeks of raising concerns that civilian courts are ill-equipped for such high-stakes trials.
In the letter, the victim families echo the Republican argument that military commissions are preferable because civilian trials in the U.S. would inappropriately allow the suspects a wide range of legal rights common to the American legal system, providing them "with the very rights that may make it possible for them to escape the justice which they so richly deserve."
"We believe that military commissions, which have had 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," the letter reads. "The public has a right to know that prosecuting the 9/11 conspirators in federal courts will result in a plethora of legal and procedural problems that will severely limit or even jeopardize the successful prosecution of their cases."
The amendment, which would affect about a half-dozen suspects who were involved in planning the attacks, was quickly taken up by Republicans on the Senate floor Thursday morning.
"We are not equipped, nor have we ever in our history dealt with a trial in Article III courts of any enemy combatant arrested on the battlefield," said Sen. Saxby ChamblissSaxby ChamblissWyden hammers CIA chief over Senate spying Cruz is a liability Inside Paul Ryan’s brain trust MORE (R-Ga.). "These folks were not given Miranda warnings because our soldiers captured these individuals with AK-47s in their hands that they were shooting at our men. These are not the kind of individuals that our courts were designed to handle or can feasibly handle."
The amendment puts Democrats in a tough position. The party has backed the Obama administration in opposition to the amendment so far, arguing that U.S. officials need flexibility in prosecution decisions and accusing the GOP of blocking attempts to bring the suspects to justice.