Poll: Majority Favor Military Courts for Terror Suspects

February 10, 2010 - 9:33 PM
By large margins, most Americans oppose giving terror suspects constitutional rights and want them to be tried in military tribunals, according to a poll by Quinnipiac University.
Abdulmutallab, crotch bomber

This Dec. 2009 photo released by the U.S. Marshal's Service on Monday Dec. 28, 2009 shows Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in Milan, Mich. Abdulmutallab, 23, is charged with trying to detonate an explosive device on a Dec. 25 flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. (AP Photo/U.S. Marshal's Service)

(CNSNews.com) – By large margins, most Americans oppose giving terror suspects constitutional rights and want them to be tried in military tribunals, according to a poll by Quinnipiac University.

That goes against the policies of the Obama administration, which ordered that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terror suspects be tried in New York City. Likewise, alleged Christmas Day terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab will be tried as a criminal rather than in military courts.

However, a slim majority supported the government’s decision to read Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights that include his right to an attorney and right to remain silent.

The administration’s handling of terror cases has been heavily scrutinized by Republican lawmakers in recent months.

The poll found that 59 percent believe that the 9/11 terror suspects should be tried in military courts rather than in civilian courts, while 35 percent support the administration’s decision.

In the partisan breakdown, Democrats support trials in civilian courts by a plurality of 48 percent, while a significant 45 percent of Democrats support military courts. Republicans prefer military courts by 73 percent. The independents surveyed support military courts by 61 percent.

By an even larger margin, 68 percent to 25 percent think terror suspects should not have all of the constitutional protections of a civilian trial.

“When it comes to how suspected terrorists should be treated by the American judicial system there is a significant gap between the American people and President Barack Obama,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

The nationwide poll of 2,617 registered voters was conducted from Feb. 2 through Feb. 8 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.9 percentage points.

The largest majority on this subject, 76 percent, believes that the alleged Christmas Day attacker, who tried to blow up a passenger flight over Detroit, should be tried as an enemy combatant and not as a criminal. Just 19 percent believe he should be tried as a criminal.

But in a surprising contrast, a small majority of 52 percent approve of the FBI’s advice to Abdulmutallab that he had the right to remain silent. Meanwhile, 42 percent disagreed.

“When it comes to his decision to treat suspected terrorists as common criminals deserving of civilian trials rather than as enemy combatants judged by military tribunals they are strongly in the other corner,” Brown continued.

“There is a similar disconnect on the basic question of whether suspected terrorists should have the same rights as ordinary criminals. Voters agree, however, with the Obama administration decision to advise the suspect in the Christmas bombing attempt of his right to remain silent.”

The poll also found that 56 percent believe President Obama is doing the right thing in Afghanistan, while 37 percent believe American forces should not be there. Meanwhile, 57 percent approve of allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military.

“Although they give the president a 49 - 44 percent approval rating on handling terrorism, the devil is in the details,” Brown said.