Sen. Dodd: 'We'll Have Far Better Prosecutions [of Terrorists] in Our Civilian Courts Than Our Military Courts'

By Matt Cover | November 20, 2009 | 12:42 PM EST

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) (AP Photo)

( – Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) said that civilian courts would do a “far better” job of prosecuting terrorists than military courts, adding that the civilian venues would be more likely to bring top al Qaeda terrorists to justice. But Dodd did not directly answer whether 9/11 leader Osama bin Laden, if captured, should be read his Miranda rights. asked: “If and when we catch Osama bin Laden, are we going to have to read him his Miranda rights?” 
Dodd said: “We’ll have far better prosecutions in our civilian courts than our military courts. We’re doing better there. I’m interested in seeing these people brought to justice and concluding their trials and getting convictions, and we’ve had a far greater success in our federal court system than we have with our military courts.”
Dodd added that while he was not against military tribunals, turning the issue into a political debate was “presumptuous” and people with a “political agenda” should not be weighing in on where terrorists are prosecuted.
“I’m not opposed to the military courts but having a bunch of congressmen and senators sitting around here deciding that they’re going to be the attorney general and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the secretary of defense is a little presumptuous,” Dodd told on Capitol Hill.  “And giving them the decision-making process as to where this best be done frankly ought not to be decided by somebody who’s got a political agenda up here. So I’m pretty confident they [the Obama administration] know what they’re doing.”
Dodd 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.