Legal experts met at Quinnipiac Law School on Tuesday for a discussion about whether to try alleged terrorists in U.S. courts. WNPR’s Diane Orson reports.
The panelists presented three distinctly different views. Vincent Vitkowsky, an adjunct fellow at the Center for Law and Counterterrorism says if Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, is tried in civilian criminal courts, it would be a “self-inflicted disaster”.
"The trial will give the people who are trying to kill us valuable counter-intelligence. They’ll learn about our intelligence sources and methods. It’ll help them shut down leaking parts of their organization..emphasize other initiatives that we know nothing about."
Vitkowsky warns that cities hosting such trials could be at risk and jurors could be unsafe. He believes suspected terrorists should be tried by military courts in remote locations like Guantanamo.
Quinnipiac University Law Professor William Dunlap sharply disagrees. He said U.S. criminal courts have tried alleged terrorists for years, and have been effective both in managing classified information and in keeping people safe. Dunlap says our allies are already concerned about America’s treatment of terrorism suspects, it would be a mistake to move trials to remote locations.
"It would send at least two negative messages to the world: that we do not trust our own criminal justice system and that we need to create a special judicial system to insure convictions that we might not be able to obtain in ordinary civilian courts."
Captain Glenn Sulmasy, chair of the law faculty at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy favors the creation of specialized hybrid tribunals designed specifically for foreign and domestic terror suspects.
"The hybrid system or national security court system will achieve that best balance of our need for national security while still upholding that long-standing commitment to the promotion of human rights. The President of the United States right now doesn’t need any more bickering or partisanship. Nor do you. We need solutions."
The event was presented by the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies.
For WNPR, I’m Diane Orson.