Sen. Charles Schumer’s (D - NY) support of the Obama administration’s use of the civil court system to try terrorist suspects is odd to say the least, considering how he saw this issue eight years ago. Immediately following the attacks of September 11th, in December of that year, the Senate Judiciary Committee met to discuss the idea of prosecuting terrorists in military tribunals. According to the hearing’s transcript (PDF), Schumer was in favor of military tribunals to try terrorist suspects.:
There are also those prisoners of war who we have captured and will capture in Afghanistan and other countries who will receive a trial of some sort. It is clear we need to try those suspects in a forum that achieves two primary goals—two goals, I might add, that may not conflict. First, the Government must have the power to use even the most sensitive classified evidence against these suspects without compromising national security in any way, shape, or form. In addition, those who commit acts of war against the United States, particularly those who have no color of citizenship, don’t deserve the same panoply of due process rights that American citizens receive. Should Osama bin Laden be captured alive—and I imagine most Americans hope he won’t be captured alive. But if he is, it is ludicrous to suggest he should be tried in a Federal court on Center Street in Lower Manhattan.
The senior senator from New York has changed his tune greatly since 2001. Schumer not only believes a 9/11 terrorist suspect like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed should be tried in a civil court six blocks from the ruins of Ground Zero, he also wants seventy-five million dollars a year reimbursement for the city of New York, which he says would cover the costs of terror trial security. Eight years after the 9/11 attacks, the New York Times reported last spring Schumer said the following.:
“Bottom line is we have had terrorists housed in New York before,” he said at a news conference at the Capitol with other Democratic leaders. “They’ve been housed safely.”
Mr. Schumer noted the “blind sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman as one example. “The main concern is bringing these terrorists to justice and making sure the public is safe,” Mr. Schumer added. “I have faith that the administration will do both.”
Apparently, Mr. Schumer’s pre-9/11 mentality is where the Obama administration wants to return to. Louis Pepe would disagree with his senator’s position. Pepe was a federal prison guard in New York City eight years ago (ten months before the attacks of September 11th). He was severely maimed and disabled for life by terror suspect Mahmoud Salim. Salim was waiting to be tried before a civil court for suspected involvement in the bombings of U.S. emabssies in East Africa three years prior. After being sentenced to thirty-two years in prison for brutally assaulting Officer Pepe, Salim was dropped from the terror trial he was originally brought to the United States for, thanks to a judicial technicality.
Why did Senator Schumer have a change of heart about military tribunals? The Washington Times Water Cooler asked him yesterday why Military tribunals are not appropriate venues for suspected terrorists to stand trial. Schumer only said that he wanted the terror suspects to face the death penalty, which he says he wrote. The senator refused to answer any question about military tribunals (see video above).
Interestingly, the U.S. Attorney responsible for prosecuting the terror trial of Mohammed is Preet Barabara. Barbara is Schumer’s former chief counsel. Barbara was responsible for heading up the investigation of the Bush administration after the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys. Schumer told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in April of this year that the Department of Justice should investigate allegations of detainee torture at the Guantanamo Bay prison.:
In light of the startling revelations that came to light this week with the publishing of a Red Cross report, which documented in gruesome detail interrogation practices such as suffocation by water, beating by collar and prolonged nudity, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that he would support a Department of Justice investigation into the reported torture.
“President Obama said he doesn‘t want to spend all his time looking back. Fair enough. But he has also said egregious violations should be prosecuted,” said Schumer, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The most logical, best place to start is the Justice Department. They haven‘t said if they are going to do it or not.
The New York senator can say he wants to see terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks put to death, but that does not change the arguments he gave himself eight years ago about national security and due process issues surrounding the prosecution of foreign terrorist suspects. Unfortunately, he seems just as interested in compromising national security interests for the sake of dragging the prior administration through the mud.