“For thousands of Americans the wounds of 9/11 will never heal,” said Beamer, whose son Todd inspired millions of Americans after he and fellow passengers on doomed United Flight 93 thwarted hijackers. “The policies of this administration cause us all to grieve anew.”
On his second day in office, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close Guantanamo, which effectively put a halt on the planning for military trials for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four other terror suspects. The executive order also laid the groundwork for having those trials take place in U.S. federal courts.
Beamer said he had prepared remarks to testify at the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security hearing long before Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Monday that the Obama administration was giving up efforts to try the 9/11 suspects in U.S. federal courts and that they would be tried by military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Beamer said although he had planned to argue that most of the families of 9/11 victims – and most Americans – were opposed to bringing terror suspects onto U.S. soil, he called Holder’s announcement a “bitter disappointment.”
Beamer said Holder claimed justice meted out by a military commission would not be as good as that of a federal trial. He also said Holder demeaned efforts by Congress to stop trials in the United States, which was at the bidding of the American public.
“As the indictment unsealed today reveals, we were prepared to bring a powerful case against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-conspirators – one of the most well-researched and documented cases I have ever seen in my decades of experience as a prosecutor,” said Holder, who also said he still stands by the decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the others in U.S. federal court.
“Unfortunately, since I made that decision, members of Congress have intervened and imposed restrictions blocking the administration from bringing any Guantanamo detainees to trial in the United States, regardless of the venue,” Holder said. “As the president has said, those unwise and unwarranted restrictions undermine our counterterrorism efforts and could harm our national security.”
Beamer said Holder praised the U.S. justice system while maligning military commissions.
"(Holder) lamented the fact that the federal courts don't get the proper respect they are due, and made a final pitch for them as if they, and not (military) commissions, have been the object of years of unrelenting assault, by him, by his boss in the Oval Office, and by the legions of lawyers, law professors, human rights activists, and anti-military propagandists whose appeal to moral vanity has found fertile ground in this Justice Department,” Beamer said.
Although it is against House rules, member of the audience – as well as members of the subcommittee – broke into applause after Beamer’s remarks.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said that if military commissions are good enough for the men and women in the U.S. military, they should be good enough for terror suspects.
“Having served in the military – the U.S. Army – for four years to hear people come in and say that there are people who are out there to destroy us; declared war on us and they deserve some kind of more lavish proceedings than our own military is offensive to me as someone who’s served in the military,” Gohmert said.
Democrats generally disagreed with the Obama administration’s decision, citing the success of other trials of terrorists in U.S. federal courts and fewer convictions in military commission trials.
“We should have the confidence in the ability of the federal courts to continue doing their job in such cases,” Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said, adding that military commission trials and convictions could face challenges in U.S. courts “all the way to the Supreme Court.”
Frank Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), chairman of the subcommittee, said that if congressional pressure led the Obama administration to finally seek justice in these cases “we’ll take it,” he said, adding “with one caveat.”
“We must acknowledge the efforts of the 9/11 victims families in particular. It was their dogged determination and endless advocacy I believe that brought this administration to the path of reason and common sense,” Sensenbrenner said.
Holder ended his remarks on Monday stating that justice for 9/11 victims and their families was his goal.
“This case has always been about delivering justice for those victims, and for their surviving loved ones,” Holder said. “Nothing else.
“It is my sincere hope that, through the actions we take today, we will finally be able to deliver the justice they have so long deserved,” Holder said.