(CNSNews.com) – Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) told CNSNews.com that civilian courts are well-suited to prosecute al Qaeda terrorists and that "if people don't believe in our system, maybe they ought to go somewhere else.”
Conrad also dismissed a question about the rights of terrorists captured on foreign battlefields and the rules of evidence in terms of a civilian court trial as not serious.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Nov. 13 that five suspects in the 9/11 attacks would be tried in a civilian court in New York City instead of facing a military trial.
On Capitol Hill on Nov. 19, CNSNews.com asked Conrad: “We’re going to have a civilian trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. If our troops--the evidence against him is going to be found in Afghanistan, there on the battlefield--if our troops need to enter a house and they think that there’s evidence there, should they have to establish probable cause and get a search warrant from a judge first?”
Conrad said: “You’re not being serious about these questions, are you?”
CNSNews.com: “[Yes], in a civilian trial. If I was on trial or you were on trial, that would have to be [done].”
Conrad responded, “We have tried terrorists in our courts and done so very successfully in the past and that is our system. So if people don’t believe in our system, maybe they ought to go somewhere else. I believe in America.”
The Fourth Amendment, which protects all defendants in civilian courts, prohibits the government from searching or seizing evidence without first establishing probable cause and obtaining a warrant--based on that probable cause--from a judge.
The Fourth Amendment reads: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
According to the Supreme Court in Weeks v. United States (1914), the government cannot use evidence obtained without a search warrant.
“The tendency of those who execute the criminal laws of the country to obtain conviction by means of unlawful seizures and enforced confessions, the latter often obtained after subjecting accused persons to unwarranted practices destructive of rights secured by the Federal Constitution, should find no sanction in the judgments of the courts, which are charged at all times with the support of the Constitution, and to which people of all conditions have a right to appeal for the maintenance of such fundamental rights,” the Court found.