April 19, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Abraham: All Accused Terrorists Should Be Tried in Federal Courts

And so, we return to the question, why extend these rights to our sworn enemies, those who would pose the greatest threat to this nation and its people? Why try these accused terrorists in federal court?The answer, simply stated, is that we must try them in a court bound by our laws, according to our laws, because anything else is something less. A substitute for a court of law is not a lesser court but a lawless institution. It is, as former Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, then chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, warned, a court created to convict as to which there can be no respect as to the outcome.Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) recently said of the battle against terrorists, “This is an ideological struggle we’re in. Image matters.” Yet, less than two weeks before, Sen. Graham introduced legislation that would prevent the 9/11 suspects — our enemies in this battle — from being tried in federal courts, courts that we hold out to the rest of the world as the most capable, fair and independent.Yes, Sen. Graham, image does matter. And the image created by an unwillingness to try these accused terrorists in our courts of law is the image of a nation’s leaders that lack confidence in the courts in which every one of us would not only expect but demand to be tried, no matter what the offense.If KSM is convicted, he will join the ranks of the roughly 200 other terrorism suspects convicted in federal criminal courts since Sept. 11 as much as he will join the ranks of countless others before him convicted of crimes against this nation and its people. American juries and judges have answered the call to deliver justice time and again. Indeed, if the controversy were merely rooted in anxiety about the ultimate disposition of KSM’s case, Americans would have more to fear from entrusting the trial to untested military tribunals that have managed to convict only three terrorists since 9/11.The decision to try alleged terrorists in federal court should not be considered controversial. After all, it is nothing more than an affirmation that our courts remain an enduring and essential part of safeguarding this nation and its values. What should concern us more is the notion that our government could, in a moment of expedience, simply create a new instrument by which to deprive any person of fundamental, individual and inalienable rights.Our laws triumph, our values triumph and our nation, pitted in a great ideological struggle, triumphs when we extend our laws to our enemies as we would ourselves. Trying KSM or any other accused terrorist according to the very laws that we would have apply to ourselves is not a sign of weakness nor an indulgence to our enemies but an affirmation of the confidence we have in the institutions by which we are governed.Retired Army Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham, formerly assigned to the Office for the Administrative Review of the Detention of Enemy Combatants, was the first officer to publicly criticize the Combatant Status Review Tribunals at Guantánamo. He has joined “Beyond Guantanamo: A Bipartisan Declaration,” advocating for the use of federal courts to try suspected terrorists.

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