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Kirk Introduces Legislation Requiring Military Commission Trials for Foreign Terrorists Seized Abroad

CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–Juy 11, 2011.  Following the transfer of Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a Somali-based terrorist, to New York City for civilian trial, United States Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) today announced legislation requiring Military Commission trials for foreign terrorists. Military Commissions were used by Presidents Lincoln and Roosevelt – and President Obama recently approved them for Al Qaeda terrorists. Kirk’s legislation would bring to justice individuals who wore no uniform and fought for no country who were seized on foreign soil by Military Commission as “enemy combatants” under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Sen. Kirk’s bill is companion legislation to H.R. 478, The Military Tribunal for Terrorists Act, authored by U.S. Rep Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.).

“Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame wore no uniform, fought for no country and under international law is considered an enemy combatant,” Senator Kirk said. “Under well-established precedents set by Presidents Lincoln and Roosevelt, enemy combatants must be subject to trial by Military Commissions, not treated as civilian criminal defendants.”

Warsame is a well known operative who joined the forces of Yemen’s Al Qaeda in the Arabian Penninsula (AQAP) with Somalia’s Al Shabaab terrorist franchises. These two groups are now considered the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world. Warsame was seized by the U.S. Navy in the Gulf of Aden and held for two months before being brought to the U.S. where the Administration granted him full American constitutional rights. Warsame’s extended detention prior to his transfer to New York city serves as an admission by the Administration that intelligence gathering was vital to U.S. national security before any transfer to civilian court.

Last March, Attorney General Eric Holder reversed his decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind, in a Manhattan civilian court, opting for a Military Commission.

“Holding Warsame for months on a U.S. Navy ship shows that the Administration sees the importance of intelligence gathering under military detainment,” Senator Kirk said. “The 9/11 Commission clearly stated that the War on Terror is an intelligence and military issue, not a law enforcement issue– yet the Attorney General is trying to blur those lines. His mixed signals are damaging to our national security.”

When news of the transfer was made public, Sen. Kirk circulated a bipartisan letter cosigned by 42 Senate colleagues opposing the transfer of terrorists like Warsame to civilian courts. The letter urged Attorney General Eric Holder to reconsider the policy and provide Congress with an estimate of the added expense to be incurred by the federal and local police to protect the families of the judge, prosecutor and jury members involved.

“When 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was to stand trial in New York, city officials estimated the cost of that trial alone would be between $75-200 million,” Senator Kirk said. “We have little information on how the Attorney General plans to protect the lifetime safety of the families of the American judges, prosecutors or juries against inevitable threats from AQAP and Al Shabaab terrorist organizations.”

Under current law, the Justice Department may choose to prosecute foreign terrorists in a civilian court or military tribunal. Under this bill, a person who fought for no country and wore no uniform who was seized abroad would stand before a Military Commission. Using the UCMJ, the accused would have a presumption of innocence, defense counsel, a right to remain silent, attendance at trial, discovery and cross-examination. Unlike the New York civilian trials, the Commission’s facilities are more secure, located far from the United States and her main cities. Military tribunals are preferable because they only require a majority vote to convict and sensitive intelligence data can be protected from public release while terror suspects can be held indefinitely.

“Foreign terrorists who attack our country should be treated as enemy combatants, not common criminals,” Rep. Buchanan said. “Using military tribunals to prosecute and sentence foreign terrorists who conspire or attack the United States is the right policy.”

Rep. Buchanan’s Military Tribunals for Terrorists Act was recently approved as part of the 2012 Defense Authorization Act which passed the House 322-96.

The transfer of terrorists to the United States is of critical importance to the State of Illinois. After a last minute provision was added to the Defense Authorization bill giving the Administration power to transfer terrorist detainees to Thomson prison in Illinois, Sen. Kirk and nine Illinois congressmen wrote a letter urging President Obama to abandon those efforts. Rep. Aaron Schock was successful in passing an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill banning federal funding for any such transfer.

Source: kirk.senate.gov

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