The House Judiciary Committee will consider holding hearings on the Obama administration’s decision to try Guantanamo detainee Ahmed Ghailani in civilian court, Rep. Ted Poe, a member of the committee, tells Newsmax.
A federal jury convicted Ghailani of one count of conspiracy and acquitted him of 284 other counts, including murder and murder conspiracy, in the bombings of U.S. Embassies in Africa.
“When the Republicans take over the House, my colleagues and I on the House Judiciary Committee will be encouraging Chairman Lamar Smith to have hearings on this issue of trying these war criminals in the appropriate forum, which is military tribunals,” says Poe, a Republican from Texas. “We need to get to the bottom of this ill-advised decision to try foreign terrorists in civilian courts.”
At a Judiciary Committee hearing last May, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. was expressing his opposition to Arizona’s illegal immigration law and Poe famously asked him if he had read the law he was opposing. Holder said he had not.
“He was pontificating about how unconstitutional the Arizona law was,” Poe says. “As I listened to him, I realized that if he had read the bill, he wouldn’t be saying those things. After all, he is an intelligent lawyer, and that’s why I asked him if he had read the bill, and of course, he admitted he had not read the 10-page bill.”
The verdict in the Ghailani case came after U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan barred testimony from a key witness who said he sold dynamite to Ghailani before the bombings.
The judge had ruled that the government learned of the witness only through the use of coercive interrogations at CIA prisons and thus his testimony would taint the process.
What the administration has forgotten is that the U.S. is at war with terrorists, Poe says.
“When people are captured in war, the enemy should be treated as a prisoner of war and tried in military tribunals, as called for under the Military Code of Justice,” Poe says. “The administration’s decision to treat these people as individuals protected under the Constitution as normal criminals was a bad decision. This newest trial proves that this is the wrong approach.”
Poe says a military tribunal would allow evidence that would be excluded in a civilian trial.
“The prosecution in this case was not allowed to produce certain evidence that would have been admissible under a military tribunal, because constitutional safeguards had been given to this war criminal that should never have been given to him,” Poe says.
Military tribunals administer swifter justice than civilian courts.
“It has been years since 9/11 and the opening of Gitmo, and finally we tried one individual,” Poe says. “Of 285 charges, including 224 counts of murder, we had a conviction on one count,” Poe says.
“If it takes 12 years to try a person who committed bombings in 1998, it’s going to be a long time before we get around to trying all of the people who have committed war crimes against the United States in federal courts,” Poe adds. “Military tribunals are much quicker. They are much more efficient.”
Poe says the problem is not the federal judge or the jury in the Ghailani case.
“The federal judge followed the Constitution, and the jury did what they felt was best under the evidence they were given, but the rules of evidence are much different under a military commission,” Poe says. “They are much broader. They allow evidence that would not be even offered in a civilian court because of the sensitivity of the evidence. Much of that evidence is ongoing national security intelligence that we don’t want public, in order to protect our troops who are still on the battlefield.”
Asked about the Obama administration’s rationale that trying terrorists in civilian court demonstrates that Americans are good people, Poe says, “Showing the world is not our primary concern. The countries that hate us will never respect our rule of law anyway.
"We have to satisfy our rule of law under the Constitution to make sure that justice occurs in federal courts and in military courts. The rules are different, but justice and human rights are still protected in both of those venues.”
Poe says, “I don’t think that we have an obligation to show the world anything. Our government has an obligation to try these war criminals as soon as possible and, if they are found guilty, make sure they are punished.”
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.
© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.