Sen. Mike Johanns today cosponsored new legislation that would keep detainees involved in the 9/11 attacks from being tried in a U.S. criminal court. The bill, introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), would specifically bar the U.S. Justice Department from trying individuals such as Khalid Sheikh Muhammad in criminal court and would force them to be tried before military commissions.
"Awarding constitutional rights and a propaganda opportunity to your enemy is not how you conduct a war," Johanns said. "These are unlawful enemy combatants who have killed Americans and remain unrepentant. It is time to draw a firm line between our enemies and the rights and liberties they seek to destroy."
* The Obama Administration originally planned to try Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and four others at a federal courthouse in New York City.
o New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has denounced these plans, citing the projected cost of $216 million for the first year after the detainees arrive in New York, and $200 million annually for as long as they are held there.
* Last November, the Senate voted down legislation similar to the Graham-Lieberman bill during consideration of the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill.
o 53 Democrats and 1 Independent opposed that provision, while 4 Democrats and 1 Independent voted with all 40 Republicans to keep it.
* Since that vote, more Senators have voiced their opposition to a New York City trial.
o Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) wrote in a Jan. 29 letter to President Obama that such a trial would be a national security risk:
- "New York City has been a high-priority target since at least the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. The trial of the most significant terrorist in custody would add to the threat" (Trial of alleged Sept. 11 conspirators probably won't be held in Lower Manhattan, Washington Post, 1.30.10)
o New York Senator Chuck Schumer called the decision to relocate the trial "obvious."