Video: Holder: U.S. to seek death for 9/11 suspects

  1. Closed captioning of: Holder: U.S. to seek death for 9/11 suspects

    >> good morning. just over eight years ago on a morning that our nation will never forget, 19 hijackers working with a network of al qaeda conspirators around the world launched the deadliest terrorist attacks our country has ever seen. nearly 3,000 people lost their lives in those attacks. and in the years since, our nation has had no higher priority than bringing those who planned and plotted the attacks to justice. one year before, in october of 2000 , a terrorist attack on the united states " cole " killed 17 american sailors. today, we announce a step forward in bringing those we believe were responsible for the 9/11 attacks and the attack on the " uss cole " to justice. five detainees at guantanamo have been charged before military commissions with participation in the 9/11 plot. they are khalid sheikh mohammed , walid bin attash , ramzi bin al shibh and ali ab dull aziz ali and mustafa ahmed al hawsawi . those have been stayed in february as have the proceedings pending in military commissions against four other detainees accused of different crimes. a case in military commissions against the alleged mastermind of the " cole " bombing al nashari was withdrawn in february. for the past several months, prosecutors of the department of justice have been working diligently with prosecutors from the pentagon's office of military commissions to review the case of each detainees at guantanamo who has been referred for prosecution. over the past few weeks, i have personally reviewed these cases and in consultation with the secretary of defense, have made determinations about the prosecution of ten detainees now held at guantanamo , including those charges in the 9/11 plot and the alleged mastermind of the " cole " bombing. today, i am announcing that the department of justice will pursue prosecution in federal court of the five individuals accused of conspiring to commit the 9/11 attacks. further, i have decided to refer back to the department of defense five defendants who face military commission trials, including the detainee who was previously charged in the " uss cole " bombing. the 9/11 cases that will be pursued in federal court have been jointly assigned to prosecutors from the southern district of new york and the eastern district of virginia . and will be brought in manhattan in the southern district of new york . after eight years of delay, those allegedly responsible for the attacks of september 11th will finally face justice. they will be brought to new york , to new york to answer for their alleged crimes in a courthouse just blocks away from where the twin towers once stood. i am confident in the ability of our courts to provide these defendants a fair trial , just as they have for over 200 years. the alleged 9/11 conspirators will stand trial in our justice system before an impartial jury under long established rules and procedures. i also want to assure the american people that we will prosecute these cases vigorously and we will pursue the maximum punishment available. these were extraordinary crimes and so we will seek maximum penalties. federal rules allow us to seek the death penalty for capital offenses and while we will review the evidence and circumstances following established protocols, i fully expect to direct prosecutors to seek the death penalty against each of the alleged 9/11 conspirators. in a speech at the national archives in may, the president called for the reform of military commissions to ensure that they are lawful, fair, and effective prosecution forum. the reforms congress recently adopted to the military commissions act ensure that military commission trials will be fair and that convictions obtained will be secure. i know that the department of justice -- of defense is absolutely committed to ensuring that military commission trials will be consistent with our highest standards as a nation and our civilian prosecutors will continue to work closely with military prosecutors to support them in that effort. in each case, my decision as to whether to proceed in federal courts or military commissions was based on a protocol that the departments of justice and defense developed and that was announced publicly in july. because many cases could be prosecuted in either federal courts or military commissions , that protocol sets forth a number of factors, including the nature of the offense, the location in which the offense occurred, the identity of the victims, and the manner in which the case was investigated. all of these things must be considered. in consultation, gwynne with again, with the secretary of defense i've looked all of the relevant factors and made case-by-case decisions for each detainee. it's important that we be able to use every forum possible to hold terrorists accountable for their actions. just as a sustained campaign against terrorism requires a combination of intelligence, law enforcement , and military operations , so must our legal efforts to bring terrorists to justice that involve both federal courts and reformed military commissions . i want to thank the members of congress, including senators lindsey graham , karl levin and john mccain who worked so hard to strengthen our national security by helping us pass legislation to reform the military commission system. we will continue to draw on the pentagon support as we bring cases against the alleged 9/11 conspirators in federal court . the justice department has a long and a successful history of prosecuting terrorists for their crimes against our nation, particularly in new york . although these cases can often be complex and challenging, federal prosecutors have successful met these challenges and have convicted a number of terrorists who are now serving lengthy sentences in our prisons. and although the security issues presented by terrorism cases should never be minimized, our marshals, our court security officers and our prison officials have extensive experience and training dealing with dangerous defendants and i am quite confident that they can meet the security challenges posed by this case. these detainees will not be transferred to the united states for prosecution until all legal requirements are satisfied. including those in recent legislation requiring a 45-day notice and report to the congress. i have already spoken this morning to governor paterson and mayor bloomberg and continue to work closely with them that all security and related concerns are properly addressed. i have every confidence that we can safely hold these trials in new york , as we have so many previous terrorist trials. for the many americans who lost friends and relatives in the attacks of september 11th , 2001 and on the " uss cole " nothing can bring back those loved ones but they deserve the opportunity to see the alleged plotters of those attacks held accountable in open court , an opportunity that has too long been delayed. today's announcement marks a significant step forward in our efforts to close guantanamo and to bring to justice those individuals who have conspired to attack our nation and our interests abroad. for over 200 years, our nation has realized on faith adherence to the rule of law to bring kls to justice and provide accountability to vimts. once again we will ask our legal system in two venues to rise to that challenge. i am confident that it will answer the call with fairness and with justice.

    >> attorney general, what do you

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 11/13/2009 2:31:14 PM ET 2009-11-13T19:31:14

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Friday that the decision to take Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other Guantamao detainees to New York to put them on trial in a federal civilian court is the right one.

Democrat Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said that federal courts are capable of trying high-profile terror cases.

Putting the self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind and the other suspects on trial in federal courts demonstrates to the world that "the most powerful nation on earth also trusts its judicial system," he added.

But former Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said that suspected terrorists should be treated as war criminals and tried in military tribunals.

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The Obama administration's decision to bring the detainees to trial in civilian court "sends a mixed message about America's resolve in the fight against terrorism," McCain said in a written statement.

Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona said that bringing Mohammed to New York is an "unnecessary risk" that could also lead to the disclosure of classified information.

He said the trial of Omar Abdel Rahman — the man known as the "blind sheik" — in a plot against New York City landmarks caused "valuable information" to be revealed to al-Qaida.

Republicans are not the only lawmakers voicing concerns about the decision.

Democratic Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, also supports the use of military tribunals in terrorism cases.

Bringing Mohammed and the other detainees to New York for trial could be "disruptive, costly, and potentially counterproductive," Webb said Friday.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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