McCain: Obama Administration Giving 9/11 Mastermind ‘His Wish’ by Giving Him Civilian Trial in New York
November 20, 2009 - 7:00 PMSen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told CNSNews.com that the Obama administration was giving 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed "his wish" by giving him a trial in federal civilian court in New York instead of trying him before a military commission.
McCain was asked on Nov. 19 whether the administration might have to produce Mohammed’s CIA interrogators if the terrorist’s defense lawyers call them as witnesses.
McCain said the answer was not clear because Obama had opened the civilian justice system to enemy combatants, a move that raised myriad problems and gave Khalid Sheik Mohammed, or KSM, what he wanted.
On Capitol Hill on Nov. 19, CNSNews.com asked McCain: “Do you think the administration is going to have to produce Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s CIA interrogators if they’re called as witnesses?”
McCain said: “I do not know because we are opening up a whole new area of the justice system and somehow applying it to enemy combatants. So I would assume those are very serious problems.”
“I think it is interesting that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said he wanted to do two things,” said McCain. “He wanted a lawyer and he wanted to be tried in New York [City]. He’s getting his wish.”
The New York Times reported on June 22, 2008 that Mohammed had originally told his CIA captors that he, like his terrorist cousin Ramzi Yousef, wanted a lawyer and a trial in federal court in New York. Yousef was tried and convicted for his role in the 1993 bomb attack on the World Trade Center.
“Mr. Mohammed met his captors at first with cocky defiance, telling one veteran C.I.A. officer, a former Pakistan station chief, that he would talk only when he got to New York and was assigned a lawyer — the experience of his nephew and partner in terrorism, Ramzi Yousef, after Mr. Yousef’s arrest in 1995,” The Times reported.
McCain was also asked whether the president’s decision to prosecute top al Qaeda terrorists in civilian courts meant that the group’s leader, Osama bin Laden, would have to be read his Miranda rights upon capture. McCain said he was “very worried” about this probability because all defendants in civilian courts are entitled to be informed of their constitutional rights.
CNSNews.com asked: “Are you worried that we’re at a point where our troops will have to Mirandize bin Laden if they …” To which McCain said: “I’m very worried about it. I’m very worried about it that if they go through our legal system, that a lawyer would legitimize that this is our legal system, and defendants are protected under the rights of every citizen.”
“But I think what’s more telling was Senator [Lindsey] Graham’s (R-S.C.) question of whether we’d ever tried an enemy combatant in civilian courts, in civil courts, in the history of this country,” said McCain. “And, of course, that’s never happened.”
“It’s never happened,” he said. “We have military commissions. We’ve passed legislation called the Military Commissions Act and yet they [the Obama administration] choose to be under the influence of the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union]. They’re the only outfit that I know of that wants to do this.”
McCain was referring to questions raised by Republicans in Congress, particularly Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) who questioned Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. on Nov. 18 about how the administration would treat terrorists caught in the future, now that they apparently will be sent to federal court to stand trial. (Holder had announced on Nov. 13 that five being held for their role in the 9/11 attacks would be tried in a federal court and not a military tribunal.)
Graham had asked Holder, “If we captured bin Laden tomorrow, would he be entitled to Miranda warnings at the moment of capture?”
Holder did not answer the question directly but said that whether bin Laden would be read his Miranda rights, including the right to remain silent during interrogation and the right to a taxpayer-funded attorney, “all depends.”
Senator Graham then said, “Well, it does not depend. If you’re going to prosecute anybody in civilian court, our law is clear that the moment custodial interrogation occurs the defendant, the criminal defendant, is entitled to a lawyer and to be informed of their right to remain silent.”
Holder answered that the case against bin Laden would not rest on any statements the al Qaeda leader might make to federal interrogators.
“Again I’m not – that all depends,” said Holder. “The case against him [bin Laden], both for those cases that have already been indicted – the case that we could make against him for the – for his involvement in the 9/11 case would not be dependent on Miranda warnings, would not be dependent on custodial statements.”
According to the Supreme Court in Miranda v Arizona, criminal defendants being prosecuted in civilian courts have the right to:
-- Remain silent during interrogation.
-- Consult with an attorney during interrogation.
-- Have an attorney appointed at government expense.
-- Have an attorney present during interrogation.
-- Stop answering questions at any time during interrogation.