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Unnecessary Risks: Terrorists Should Be Tried Outside The U.S.


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Despite the fact that a majority of Americans oppose it, President Obama recently announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind the September 11th terrorist attacks, and four of his co-conspirators, will be brought onto U.S. soil and tried in a federal court in New York. This move will expose U.S. citizens and the intelligence community to unnecessary risks, will hinder our efforts to combat terrorism, and will grant terrorists access to protections that were never intended for such war enemies.

The terrorist acts plotted by these men were acts of war against the United States and should be prosecuted by military commissions, not common criminal courts. Military commissions are wartime systems of justice used during the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II. Congress approved procedures for current military commissions in 2006 and 2009, and the Supreme Court has upheld their use.

Military commissions held at Guantanamo Bay would produce a fair trial while reducing security risks. Indeed, the Administration recently announced that it would use commissions to try five Guantanamo Bay detainees involved with the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. Why should Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-conspirators receive more rights than those terrorists?

In federal criminal courts, prosecutors will be forced to reveal certain intelligence techniques and sources, which could be used by al Qaeda to better understand our intelligence-gathering methods and respond accordingly. This could be exacerbated if the terrorists choose to represent themselves during the trial. In addition, relationships to other al Qaeda figures could be released, tipping off al Qaeda to individuals within their organization who have been exposed.

A trial in federal criminal court would also convey to these terrorists the legal rights and benefits of U.S. citizens under the Constitution -- protections never meant for war enemies. They will surely manipulate these protections to unnecessarily delay justice and create a bully pulpit from which they can further spread their message of hate.

Furthermore, moving this trial to New York City exposes that area to an increased risk of being targeted by terrorists seeking to leverage the trial as justification for further violence and destruction.

For all of these reasons, I joined with 169 other Members of Congress to cosponsor the "Keep Terrorists Out of America Act." This legislation would guarantee that dangerous terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay are kept off American soil and out of our courts. I have also signed a discharge petition which, if signed by 218 Members of the House, would immediately bring this legislation to the House floor for a vote.

President Obama's decision to bring terrorists to the U.S. poses unnecessary risks to Americans, our intelligence community and our efforts to combat terrorism. I will continue to work to reverse this controversial policy.

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