- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. predicted Tuesday Osama bin Laden will never face justice in an American courthouse because he will never be taken alive by U.S. troops.

“We will be reading Miranda rights to a corpse of Osama bin Laden. He will never appear in an American courtroom,” Mr. Holder told a House hearing. He later elaborated that the al Qaeda terrorist leader “will be killed by us or he will be killed by his own people.”

The remarks came as the attorney general was testifying about the Justice Department’s 2011 budget. Mr. Holder was defending the decisions he and President Obama have made to try some suspected terrorist detainees in civilian courts, while others will face trial in military commissions.

Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, said the government may have set a precedent for giving bin Laden a forum in civilian courts after Mr. Holder decided to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, in a civilian court.

During the hearing, Mr. Holder said he wanted to clear up what he said were misconceptions about trials in civilian courts, including that defendants would be “coddled.”

“The question is, Are they being treated as murderers would be treated? And the answer to that is yes. They have the same rights as Charles Manson would have,” he said.

Bin Laden has been on the run since soon after the Sept. 11 attacks. In December 2001, President George W. Bush said bin Laden was wanted “dead or alive,” but coalition forces have been unable to find him. Afghan and Pakistani officials have sparred over which country he is hiding in.

The comparison to convicted killer Manson angered Rep. John Culberson, Texas Republican, who said it showed the Obama administration doesn’t understand the American public’s desire to treat terrorists as wartime enemies, not criminal defendants.

“My constituents and I just have a deep-seated and profound philosophical difference with the Obama administration,” Mr. Culberson said.

Mr. Holder, his voice rising, charged that the lawmaker’s arguments ignored basic facts about the law and the fight against terrorists.

“The possibility of catching [bin Laden] alive is infinitesimal,” he said.

Much of the hearing centered on the Obama administration’s stalled plan to put Mohammed on trial in a civilian court instead of a military tribunal.

In the face of resistance from New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and other local politicians, that plan was shelved and the White House is now considering other options.

Rep. Chaka Fattah, Pennsylvania Democrat, bemoaned what he called a “cowardly” desire to avoid a civilian terror trial in a major city.

“It doesn’t befit a great nation to hesitate or equivocate on the question of following our own laws,” Mr. Fattah said.

This article was based in part on wire service reports.

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