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Public Statements

Statements On Introduced Bills And Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I rise to speak about this administration's decision to try the 9/11 conspirators and the Christmas bomber in our civilian criminal justice system.

Prosecuting the five 9/11 conspirators currently detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, as well as the Christmas bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in article III criminal court indicates a disturbing tendency by this administration to make terrorism a law enforcement priority rather than an intelligence priority. It a mistake to treat terrorism as a law enforcement problem alone, a mistake that is only compounded by the fact that the intelligence community was not even consulted before they were prevented from gathering any intelligence from Abdulmutallab, a member of a terrorist organization sworn to be at war with America. As the 9/11 Commission found:

An unfortunate consequence of this superb investigative and prosecutorial effort was that it created an impression that the law enforcement system was well equipped to cope with terrorism.

As we know from an examination of events before 9/11, law enforcement means alone cannot eliminate the threat from al-Qaida.

After Abdulmutallab failed to detonate an explosive device on Northwest flight 253, he was taken into custody by law enforcement. Other than the Federal Bureau of Investigation, no member of the intelligence community--in particular, the Central Intelligence Agency--had the opportunity to question Abdulmutallab and gather intelligence. The Department of Justice should have foreseen that a dedicated terrorist, intent on committing suicide and harming Americans, would not be willing to cooperate with U.S. law enforcement, especially after being informed of his rights under our criminal code, including the right to remain silent. Without consulting the intelligence community, the Department of Justice limited the tools used to gather intelligence and potentially prevent future terrorist attacks.

The administration is returning to the idea that terrorism can be investigated by the FBI and prosecuted rather than relying on our intelligence community and military to disrupt attacks. The United States should not revert to the days where we waited for an attack to occur, then investigated it and prosecuted it. We must work actively to disrupt terrorist attacks before they take the lives of Americans. We must work actively to deny terrorist safe havens and financing. The most successful way to disrupt and deny terrorist activity is through the intelligence we gather on individuals prior to a criminal or terrorist act occurring or from those individuals after they have made such an attempt.

Treating these terrorists as common criminals will put our communities in danger, toll the taxpayers, and cause the government to miss valuable intelligence collection opportunities. For example, bringing the five 9/11 conspirators to New York City is estimated to cost over $200 million per year just in enhanced security. This does not include the cost to millions of New Yorkers and businesses who will have to adjust their way of life to accommodate these trials. Meanwhile, this will allow terrorists to mock our justice system and use it as a stage to espouse their jihadist beliefs and expose our intelligence sources and methods. We have already seen Zacarias Moussaoui use his trial in Virginia to spout al-Qaida propaganda and to try to portray himself as a martyr. Meanwhile, terrorism trials during the 1990s in our criminal courts exposed sensitive and classified information to, among others, Osama bin Laden, including the fact that the U.S. intelligence community was targeting his communications.

Let me be clear. These are not common criminals, and they should not be treated as such. The five terrorists responsible for planning and organizing the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks--including self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed--should not be entitled to receive the same legal treatment as our Constitution gives to common criminals in this country. These terrorists committed an act of war, an act that led us to an armed conflict in Afghanistan, where, today, more than 8 years later, our troops are still battling al-Qaida. These terrorists should face justice through the military commission process for the atrocities they committed--the same process that had already charged these five terrorists and began over a year ago; the same process that KSM already pleaded guilty under but that the President abolished as soon as he took office.

For these reasons, I joined a bipartisan group of Senators, today, in introducing legislation that would prohibit funding for the prosecuting of the 9/11 conspirators in our U.S. criminal article III courts.

Under his Constitutional authority as Commander in Chief, along with the Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force, the President has the authority--and the responsibility--to detain the 9/11 conspirators and Abdulmutallab because of their actions on behalf of al-Qaida, and to pursue trial by military commission--an option the President determined appropriate for other terrorits, such as Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was responsible for the USS Cole bombing. Instead, by prosecuting Abdulmutallab and the 9/11 conspirators in criminal court, and Nashiri and others by military commission, it creates the impression that terrorists are rewarded with the full complement of rights and privileges of an American if they attack defenseless civilians at home, but not if they attack our government or military interests abroad. This will only further incentivize terrorists to attack our homeland.

As the attempted terrorists attack on Christmas Day illustrates, al-Qaida does not need further incentive to attack America. They are focused on and engaged in harming Americans here and abroad. As such, it is critical that our intelligence community have every opportunity to gain information so we can stay one step ahead of any related terrorists threats. Obtaining intelligence first rather than affording constitutional rights to a foreign terrorist is an obvious solution. Treating members of al-Qaida the same as we treat others captured on the battlefield is another.


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