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Lawmakers differ on Gitmo trial decision

A top Democrat is arguing that the decision to try five detainees in a federal civilian court is the right one, but others say that the trial would set a bad precedent.
/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

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.

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.