Use Military Tribunals to Handle Terror Suspects

Constitution provides the right, national security provides the duty.

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In district courts, classified information is not as protected as in military tribunals. Civilian terrorist trials after the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa required disclosure that we obtained intelligence through defendants' cellphone usage. Terrorists stopped using cellphones, and we lost information that may have saved lives. When court rules required disclosure of unindicted coconspirators, bin Laden had the names within two weeks. Trial before a military commission affords defendants constitutional protections but weighs them more effectively against the needs of classified information.

In a district court, the right to a speedy trial could result in dismissal of the case against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Attorney General Eric Holder said that we'd keep him in custody even if the charges were dismissed. That's a PR nightmare.

Our Constitution allows enough flexibility to prevent enemies from using our own system to destroy us. Accordingly, I filed H.R. 4127, which would require that "alien unprivileged enemy belligerents," as they are now called, be tried only by a military commission. That is constitutional and protects the American people. In their own pleading, Mohammed and his codefendants say that they are "terrorists to the bone." Our Constitution requires that we "provide for the common defense," not be an accessory to those trying to destroy us.

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