The federal government’s decision to try Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, in the United States — specifically New York City — has sparked outrage.
Republican lawmakers say legal precedent has been established for “enemy combatants” to be put on trial at Guantanamo Bay, and that vital intelligence could be lost in a civilian trial, NBC News reported Thursday
“We believe the administration’s decision here to bring this person to New York City, if that’s what’s happened, without letting Congress know, is a very bad precedent to set,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said in a statement.
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He added Republicans are putting the Obama administration “on notice. We think that sneaking this guy into the country, clearly going around the intent of Congress when it comes to enemy combatants, will be challenged.”
Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain of Arizona said that not trying Abu Ghaith as an enemy combatant before a military panel prevents the United States from obtaining intelligence that could be used to stop future attacks by al-Qaida or similar groups.
“We are in a long struggle with the forces of al-Qaida and radical extremists — and if you give someone their Miranda rights, that means they’re in civilian court and they’re not an enemy combatant. They’re just an ordinary criminal,” McCain, the senior GOP member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told CNN’s Piers Morgan.
“But if you do that — and any good lawyer is going to tell them not to say anything — then that prevents us from having the ability to get intelligence information that would probably prevent another tragedy like 9/11.”
New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte also said prosecuting someone “this close to bin Laden and the senior al-Qaida leadership” in civilian court is “the last thing in the world we want to do, in my opinion. . . .
“This man should be in Guantanamo Bay,” she said.
Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, agreed.
“We should treat enemy combatants like the enemy. The U.S. court system is not the appropriate venue. The president needs to send any captured al-Qaida members to Guantanamo,’’ he said.
Abu Ghaith, who appeared next to bin Laden in a 2001 video in which they chillingly claimed responsibility for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, is charged with conspiracy to kill Americans.
He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in federal court in Manhattan on Friday morning, reported The New York Times
But not all Republicans oppose the way the Obama administration is handling his prosecution.
New York Rep. Peter King praised the way the case is being handled. He also lauded Jordanian authorities, who, according to The Times, allowed U.S. officials to take Abu Ghaith into custody in Amman, Jordan, while he was being transferred from Turkey — where he had been detained last month — to his home country of Kuwait.
“I trust he received a vigorous interrogation, and will face swift and certain justice,” King said, according to The Financial Times.
Michael Rosensaft, a former federal prosecutor, told Bloomberg News the decision to try the case in New York involves trade-offs among security, secrecy, and rules of evidence, which are tighter under military tribunals.
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