Prosecute Christmas bomber in federal court

In the aftermath of the foiled Christmas Day bombing, the media and several of my former colleagues in Congress have challenged the Obama administration’s decision to try Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in federal court rather than by military commission. The administration’s decision, however, should be welcomed not criticized, as a clear affirmation of the strength and resiliency of our criminal justice system.

As a former member of Congress and former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. In my opinion, that magnificent document is far stronger than critics of the administration’s decision in the Abdulmutallab case consider it to be; and it provides a robust and fully adequate mechanism for ensuring justice is done and America protected against actual and would-be terrorists.

Trials of terrorism suspects like Abdulmutallab in traditional federal courts are not only consistent with the Constitution and our American values, but are also far more effective in achieving justice than their constitutionally flawed counterparts, the military commissions. Since 2001, nearly 200 terrorists have been convicted by way of our federal court system.  Contrast that record with that of the military commissions, which have convicted only three low-level terrorists. Moreover, expensive and time-consuming legal challenges to the commissions continue to seriously hamper their effectiveness. Renewing the use of these commissions will ensure further delays and expense.

Those who oppose the decision to use our traditional criminal justice system are focused on instilling fear in the American people. In addition, assertions that more intelligence could have been extracted from Abdulmutallab had he been transferred to military custody are faulty as well as disconcerting. This perspective suggests that military interrogation should have been undertaken because “alternative methods” of interrogation (wink, wink) are permitted and would result in accurate and useable information. This scenario also implies that because Abdulmutallab was read Miranda rights and provided an attorney, we can attain no further information and that he would not talk to authorities. This simply is not the case. Authorities already have gained information from him and they are confident they will continue to learn information as the justice process unfolds.

Terrorism suspects should be brought down by the very thing they seek to destroy – American values. Thus, we should try them in the very federal courts that our U.S. Constitution established. Our country’s founders conferred upon the government the power to protect us from our enemies and to prosecute and detain those who violate our laws. They also created a system for ensuring that those efforts are conducted within the boundaries of the Constitution. It is time to face the fact that the military commissions system of trying and detaining terrorist suspects has failed. Now is the time to return to and reaffirm our faith in our constitutional criminal justice system.

While I support the administration’s decision to try Abdulmutallab in federal court, I remain troubled by its dedication to try other terror suspects in military commissions. That is why I have joined a bipartisan coalition of over 130 former diplomats, military officials, federal judges and prosecutors, and members of Congress, as well as bar leaders, national security and foreign policy experts, and family members of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in issuing “Beyond Guantanamo: A Bipartisan Declaration.” The Declaration sets forth constitutional principles for dealing with present and future terrorism suspects upon the closing of Guantanamo; namely, trying terrorism suspects in regular federal courts rather than military commissions, and rejecting indefinite detention without charges. These principles recognize and affirm that we can keep our country safe while still adhering to the rule of law and the values that are embodied in our Constitution; they have stood the test of time for over 200 years and should not be jettisoned as we move into the 21st Century.

80 comments Add your comment

william

January 11th, 2010
2:07 pm

Jim

January 11th, 2010
1:59 pm
“a) Executing these folks within 48 hours is just ludicrous, silly ranting that makes martyrs of them.(Exactly what they want)”

Please give me resource to back this up or a real life example qualifying this statement. This is purely hypothetical but that is what liberals live by. That, coupled with their socialist ideology will always cost the American tax payer–and it is not always the rich.

william

January 11th, 2010
2:10 pm

deathportal

January 11th, 2010
2:01 pm
“Either we’re a nation of laws or we’re not. If we do not abide by the Constitution, we are NOT a nation of valid laws”

How do you stand on illegal immigration if you abide by valid laws?

What country founded its constitution or government laws with other countries citizens in mind? Please advise!

Swede Atlanta

January 11th, 2010
2:17 pm

Re Ridgerunner @ 12:57

I think if you talk to the families of the slain police officers in Washington State they would say that the perpetrator’s purpose was to engage in an act of war on police. He allegedly told a friend or left a note saying he wanted to “get him some police”. This guy on Christmas was going to “get him so Americans”.

Where do you draw the line? Is it the number of intended victims? Is it the MO?

This guy will be tried and, assuming the prosecution does its job, will be convicted and sentenced appropriately, in accordance with our laws.

As to other comments on killing them without trial, that just feeds the terrorist pipeline. The people that wish us ill use that as reasons for young men to join the cause. In my view being incarcerated in solitary confinement for the rest of your life (this guy is only 23) is much worse punishment than escaping through death.

Jefferson

January 11th, 2010
2:18 pm

If he wants to die, someone should kill him.

Bishop

January 11th, 2010
2:20 pm

Hey geniuses, if you are caught in an airport you are not an enemy combatant. Was the DC Sniper an enemy combatant? Eric Robert Rudolph? Tim McVeigh? Lee Harvey Oswald?

Swede Atlanta

January 11th, 2010
2:25 pm

William @ 2:10

What country founded its government laws…etc. with other countries’ citizens in mind.

So are you suggesting that a foreign national not have the same rights for the same crime as an American citizen?

I’ll bet if you talked to Amanda Knox’ family they would disagree with you. They would not want for an Italian defendant to have greater rights than their daughter if tried for the same crime.

Why do we think that a foreign national shouldn’t enjoy the same protections as an American? I would hope to have equal protection in a foreign country.

william

January 11th, 2010
2:29 pm

Swede Atlanta

January 11th, 2010
2:25 pm
Crimes?
That is where you are confused! Blowing yourself up to kill Americans to destroy their way of life is an act of war! Their religion states they must kill or convert us. I am sure this will evade your socialist mind forever.

Swede Atlanta

January 11th, 2010
2:41 pm

Ref William @ 2:29

Please define “act of war”. You seem to believe you know it when you see it but you cannot define it. That’s the problem with this whole discussion. The Supreme Court once said that it was very difficult to define obscenity but they knew it when they saw it.

You can’t base a system of justice on things you can’t define.

Yes,crimes. This guy is accused of violating laws of this country. Imagine that. We are actually capable of writing and passing laws making acts illegal. That makes him a criminal. A criminal the same as Richard Reid, Timothy McVeigh, etc.

And as to Islam you are truly ignorant. The Quran, as with the bible, has many phrases that can both be taken out of context and also are misunderstood. Mainstream Muslins would disagree that Islam mandates them to kill or convert us. Islam has most certainly been used to incite terrible acts of pain, suffering and death.

But so has Christianity. Remember the Crusades, the Inquisition, etc.? People used religion and quotes from the Bible to promote their “rights” to control the Holy Land, torture and kill those who wouldn’t recant or in the case of Jews, kill them when they wouldn’t convert.

And lastly, I laugh at so many who post here that throw around the talking points. You suggest I am a “socialist”. What is the basis for that claim? What do you know about my views? Do you know what socialism is?

ClosingTime

January 11th, 2010
2:48 pm

The problem is that too many gutless politicians, bureaucrats and litigators have hijacked and rigged the system in their favor. Our forefathers would run them out at rifle-point. (Why do you think these folks want to override the 2nd Amendment?) American grandmothers in wheelchairs are harassed and searched by ineffectual “agents,” while terrorists cruise through unmolested so nobody will question the equity of TSA and Customs. It’s disgraceful and dangerous. We cannot continue to apply our Western sensibilities to people who pledge their allegiance to the person controlling food and water. This terrorist should be in CIA hands and CIA operations should remain covert.

william

January 11th, 2010
2:51 pm

ClosingTime

January 11th, 2010
2:48 pm
Yepper!

sam

January 11th, 2010
2:59 pm

there are plenty of good old fashioned criminals who make a mockery of our criminal justice system. that doesnt mean we throw it away. this trial will not be televised and I doubt this kid has much to say that we havent already heard. this is the right avenue for swift justice. people will complain about anything at this point. whatever rush/sean/neal are bitching about that is what these people will complain about…this one is really an easy decision. we should let it go and move on to catching these people before we have to prosecute them.

william

January 11th, 2010
3:06 pm

Swede Atlanta

January 11th, 2010
2:41 pm

Ok I will use my southern common sense and see if this makes a spark between your ears.

I have defined it but you will not accept the definition because it does not fit your peronal or political views. My forefathes defined it better than anyone in the world has ever done before.

The laws of the country are in question: Is it criminal law or war crimines? My forefathers defined it as war and so do I.

As for as Islam, what I said is in their book and part of their beliefs. And for as Christains, I have never read in the bible where I am to kill anyone for any reason. The Crusades were bad men in charge of a the state runned church. My forefathers saw this and made it so it can not happen. So your ignorance is bliss.

I agree on the socialist thing. I assumed by reading your remarks that you think everyone is the same. A liberal delusion.

Swede Atlanta

January 11th, 2010
3:09 pm

Ref: William @ 3:06

Your response is all the proof I needed. You made my case.

Thank you for your help! Enjoy ignorance.

deathportal

January 11th, 2010
3:30 pm

william,

The Constitution was written, correct me if I’m wrong, to outline what powers the government actually had. The Bill of Rights was added to ensure that the government did not overstep those powers. The Constitution wasn’t a document that solely dealt with the American people, it was a document that outlined what the legal powers of the government are.

As it stands, these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not declared in the legal manner under the Constitution, so the “War Criminal” defense doesn’t hold water–provided that the offenses happen on the soil of those countries. (Trust me, you wouldn’t stand for letting some other country, say, China, do to us what we do to these countries we occupy) If they happen on our soil, then they are still criminal offenses, but they are not war crimes. By your logic, Timothy McVeigh was a war criminal (after all, he was angry at the United States Government, and he acted accordingly by bombing a Federal building and killing Americans) and should not have been given a trial in US courts. Unless your whole argument is that McVeigh was an American citizen, as if that somehow makes him better than someone else, and I find that argument silly. Crime is crime, regardless of the nationality of the perpetrator.

brandi

January 11th, 2010
3:37 pm

While this sounds like an excellent idea on the surface, I am concerned that our federal court system is ill equipt to manage that many trials. Are there even enough judges to handle that number of trials? And any lawyer defending these terrorists is going to scream change of venue…but there is nowhere to change the venue to, so the federal appeals courts will be bombarded with cases. And where are they going to find jurors? If I am called to serve, I could not, God forgive me, be impartial. My view is bomb Gitmo and let someone else sort it out. This is just my most primitive feelings. I realize this is the wrong way to look at this situation, but all I have to think of is the sound of the bodies striking the ground from people jumping from the World Trade Center Buildings and my blood boils. It is a sound I will never get out of my head. And then to hear that three Navy Seals are being court martialed for assault, because a terrorist they were questioning got a bloodied lip?? No, Mr. Barr, this goes so much further than the federal courtroom.

Ridgerunner

January 11th, 2010
4:18 pm

To Swede Atlanta and neoCarlinist :

Agree to disagree. Thanks for the reasoned debate.

PaulH

January 11th, 2010
5:31 pm

Bob…isn’t this already a federal crime, since it was committed aboard an aircraft in flight ? I don’t see what the big problem is…the slob’s guilty, let him swing for it.

What Me Worry

January 11th, 2010
7:18 pm

Terrorists are criminals period. They represent no state even if they wore a patch. Why should we treat them like soldiers? because they view themselves as such? The court system can handle people that come here to kill Americans.

“As for as Islam, what I said is in their book and part of their beliefs. And for as Christains, I have never read in the bible where I am to kill anyone for any reason. The Crusades were bad men in charge of a the state runned church. My forefathers saw this and made it so it can not happen. So your ignorance is bliss.”

Really? Here a few instances were God order the killing and destruction of heretics.

“The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance. He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.” (Psalms 58:10)

“Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree: And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.” (Deuteronomy 12:2-3)

“And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and woman: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.” (Ezekiel 9:5-6)

Bill

January 11th, 2010
9:19 pm

Bob, you make some interesting points,but we are not talking about a crime, but an act of war. He was carrying out a plan hatched by AlQaida, an enemy we are at war with. Should we have Marandized all the Nazis and Japanese captured on the battlefield in WW2 ? That’s ludicrous ! And if enhanced interrogations can save potentially THOUSANDS of lives, isn’t that more important than due process ? The rights of terrorists should not supercede our right to live. What if one of these goons knew the exact whereabouts of UBL ? Should we let him lawyer up so he will be much less likely to give up the info, ro would we be more likely to get the intelligence by using enhanced methods ? As far as I’m concerned, I don’t care what methods are used if it could save innocent lives. The thug obviously had no regard for human life, or he wouldn’t have tried to blow up a plane with 300 people in it.

Stan Kelley

January 11th, 2010
9:22 pm

You are correct Ridgerunner. Decide in what way the founders failed and petition your State to call for such a Convention or petition Congress to add an amendment. Easy, but harder than writing angry blogs all day. Besides, you might meet someone nice.

Stan Kelley

January 11th, 2010
9:24 pm

Bill, should all the Confederates have been shot? They made war on the United States of America and killed far more than 300.

Bill

January 11th, 2010
9:34 pm

Stan, last I checked, the Confederates were US Citizens, and therefore had all the rights afforded to US Citizens. I don’t beleive they all had individual trials, but were held as prisoners of war.

Dan Deacon

January 12th, 2010
6:50 am

Stan Kelley…you should study up on your history more before making a ludicrous comment about Confederates making war on The USA. They were U.S. Citizens!!

No one that becomes a terrorist, as defined by today’s standards, should be allowed to enter the judicial system within our federal courts and especially important whenever the terrorists is not a U.S. citizen. Foreigners have no rights should have no rights in this country if they commit terrorist acts. They have earned the right to any benefits of citizenship, they havent’ fought, bled or died for our country. They haven’t worked their fingers to the bones and paid taxes to support our nation. They are not patriotic to our flag or our great nation. As citizens, we don’t deserve to have to pay for a trial for someone or group that has tried to kill us…how absurd have people become!! This becomes a military matter and a part of war. Where in the h*e*ll are real men, like Patton when you need them. H*e*ll, he’d cut their head off, held it up and asked them if they wanted to try terrorists acts again until there wasn’t anymore of these goonhead murderers.

Dan Deacon

January 12th, 2010
6:53 am

CORRECTION…..They HAVE NOT earned the right to any benefit of citizenship.

John Byrnes

January 12th, 2010
8:12 am

We don’t need profiling to identify Individuals like the Christmas-Day Bomber!

Virtually all media outlets are discussing whether we should be profiling all Arab Muslims; I will in the one-page explain why we don’t need profiling. Over 15 years ago, we at the Center for Aggression Management developed an easily-applied, measurable and culturally-neutral body language and behavior indicators exhibited by people who intend to perpetrate a terrorist act. This unique methodology utilizes proven research from the fields of psychology, medicine and law enforcement which, when joined together, identify clear, easily-used physiologically-based characteristics of individuals who are about to engage in terrorist activities in time to prevent their Moment of Commitment.

The Problem
Since the foiled terrorist attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian national on Northwest Flight 253 to Detroit, the President has repeatedly stated that there has been a systemic failure as he reiterates his commitment to fill this gap in our security. This incident, like the Fort Hood shooting, exemplifies why our government must apply every valid preventative approach to identify a potential terrorist.

The myriad methods to identify a terrorist, whether “no-fly list,” “explosive and weapons detection,” mental illness based approaches, “profiling” or “deception detection” – all continue to fail us. Furthermore, the development of deception detection training at Boston Logan Airport demonstrated that the Israeli methods of interrogation will not work in the United States.

All media outlets are discussing the need for profiling of Muslim Arabs, but profiling does not work for the following three reasons:

1. In practice, ethnic profiling tells us that within a certain group of people there is a higher probability for a terrorist; it does not tell us who the next terrorist is!

2. Ethnic profiling is contrary to the value our society places on diversity and freedom from discrimination based on racial, ethnic, religious, age and/or gender based criteria. If we use profiling it will diminish our position among the majority of affected citizens who support us as a beacon of freedom and liberty.

3. By narrowing our field of vision, profiling can lead to the consequence of letting terrorists go undetected, because the terrorist may not be part of any known “profile worthy” group – e.g., the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh

The Solution
Our unique methodology for screening passengers can easily discern (independently of race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, age, and gender) the defining characteristics of human beings who are about to engage in terrorist acts.

The question is when will our government use true “hostile intent” through the “continuum of aggressive behavior” to identify potential terrorists? Only when observers focus specifically on “aggressive behavior” do the objective and culturally neutral signs of “aggression” clearly stand out, providing the opportunity to prevent these violent encounters. This method will not only make all citizens safer, but will also pass the inevitable test of legal defensibility given probable action by the ACLU.

As our Government analyzes what went wrong regarding Abdulmatallab’s entrance into the United States, you can be assured that Al Qaeda is also analyzing how their plans went wrong. Who do you think will figure it out first . . . ?

Visit our blog at http://blog.AggressionManagement.com where we discuss the shooting at Fort Hood and the attempted terrorist act on Flight 253.

John Jay

January 12th, 2010
8:35 am

Thanks, Bob. Once again you throw party politics aside and speak your conscience. You truly do believe in the sanctity and wisdom of the Constitution, unlike many so-called conservatives.

DirtyDawg

January 12th, 2010
10:39 am

MrLiberty hit on a key point yesterday afternoon – although I doubt if ridgerunner – aptly named I might add – picked up on it or could comprehend it if he had…he certainly wouldn’t agree with it. Namely, that a perceived downside to a public trial, is the likelihood that a defense attorney would ask the question that Helen Thomas did the other day at a WH Press Briefing – and got no answer – ‘Why do you think these people keep wanting to attack and kill us?’

Over the years excuses like ‘they hate our freedoms’…or, ‘it’s in their Religion, they have to’…bhave been the ‘response’…balderdash. To me, it’s because ‘we ask for it’. Whether it’s to ‘protect Israel’ – as if they needed anymore of our protection – or the belief that those guys are sitting on all of Exxon’s oil, we’ve done a lot over there that has managed to create a lot of enemies…people that hate us for what somebody did to them, their family and/or friends. We won’t be able to duck that question when it’s asked in open court.

AF

January 12th, 2010
2:12 pm

Nice piece. I keep trying to put you, Mr. Barr, in the same camp with neo-, knee-jerk, reactionary Cheny/Bush lovers, and that is a mistake.

Some argue that trying terrorists under typical American court protocols gives them too many rights and too much of a platform. I really do believe that we prove more to the American hating world if they get a speedy trial conducted under the same rules we apply to other murderers in our society. We prove we have a system of justice and the rule of law that most of them can only dream of.

Doing otherwise makes the world think we don’t really trust our own institutions.

I don’t know if we won’t have to eventually come up with a system of trying terrorist “enemy combatants” that includes military tribunals. I just believe it got s incredibly messed up, confused, and manipulated in our early attempts during the past decade that we need to drop back and rething how to do it. In the meantime, justice should not wait and those already held for years should be tried and convicted or released.

Troglodyke

January 12th, 2010
4:55 pm

//This common sense, honest look at the issues is why I have made a 180 on Bob Barr. I have appreciated, for a while now, his championing of privacy rights and shunning of the usual talking points of the right. I have thought for a while now that left and right have more in common than the powers that benefit from keeping us divided would care to admit.//

Bravo! I heartily agree. I am SICK of the party line–Republican OR Democrat.

Thoughtful, intelligent people break away from the pack and put forth courageous columns like this one, and the one prior to it.

Thanks, Bob, for confounding the knuckle-draggers of BOTH parties. They need to step aside and let those who can think for themselves start solving the problems in this country.

Personally, I would cheer wildly if some brave sniper took this underwear idiot out before a trial ever even got close. That’s the conservative, red-blooded, gun-toting side of me. And I’m not ashamed of it. Save us the time and money. He’s a religious fanatic, which means he is worthless as a human being because he has lost the ability to think or reason. One shot; good-bye.

But that isn’t likely to happen. So let’s all get our party-line heads out of our a$$es and deal with it.

Bill Mcniff

January 21st, 2010
4:56 pm

It’s not about which legal system to use it’s about getting useful intelligence from him.