Lawmakers Clash Over Trial of Christmas Day Bomber

Posted January 10, 2010 at 11:00am

Republicans and Democrats sparred this morning over whether a Nigerian man who attempted to blow up a plane bound for Detroit on Christmas Day should be tried in civilian courts or treated as an enemy combatant.Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said trying the bombing suspect in civilian courts is effective, noting that many terrorism suspects have been convicted and jailed in the U.S. legal system. “It is the most effective, surest way to get justice,— the West Point graduate said during a “Fox News Sunday— appearance. “This is the way to do it.—Republicans, though, have criticized President Barack Obama’s decision to try Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in a civilian court. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union— that Obama did not follow through with his tough rhetoric in the wake of the failed attack, arguing that if the president were serious he would treat Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant.Republicans fear that the civilian court system offers too much protection to suspected terrorists. Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) suggested Sunday that U.S. officials may have gotten more intelligence from the suspected bomber. “You have to treat this like a war,— he said.Meanwhile, the thwarted bombing is prompting renewed attention to the administration’s decision to stop the release of prisoners from the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to Yemen.Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), ranking member of the House Intelligence panel, agreed on CBS’ “Face the Nation— that the U.S. should halt the release of any Guantánamo prisoners to countries with an al-Qaida presence.Hoekstra suggested that simply stopping the release of Guantánamo detainees to Yemen is not enough, and that the ban should extend to countries including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. “These people are released and they find their way back to the battlefield … they form the core of people who want to attack America,— he said.Feinstein agreed with Hoekstra on the need for a broader ban, saying that prisoners released from Guantánamo are at risk of getting involved in the terrorist network. “They come out of Gitmo and they are heroes in that world,— she said.Feinstein also said Congress is prepared to act, highlighting three steps that need to be taken: improving technology to better sort through intelligence, simplifying the standards for who is placed on the “no-fly list,— and toughening the visa-revocation system. “Those are three things that should be looked at right away,— she said.And some Senators said Sunday that people need to be held accountable for the lapses that led to the Christmas Day bombing attempt. On CNN, Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) said “human errors— were made and that the investigation into the foiled plot will reveal who is responsible.“We’ve got to close the gaps,— said Lieberman, who heads the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “Some people need to be held accountable for the mistakes, human errors, that enabled that Nigerian terrorist to get on that plane.—McCain agreed, saying, “people should be held responsible for what happened. Someone has to be held responsible.—