In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder attempted to defend his indefensible decision to provide Khalid Sheik Mohammad and four other 9/11 terrorists with all of the rights afforded to American citizens by putting them on trial in our federal court system -- mere blocks away from Ground Zero in New York City.
Holder was grilled repeatedly about his stated rationale, at times grappling to justify his own tortured logic. We’ve put together some of the most telling moments from the hearing in transcripts, all of which are edited for length.
Early on, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) asked a simple question that Holder obviously wasn’t prepared to answer.
SEN. HERB KOHL: In the worst case scenario and the trial does not result in conviction, what would be your next steps?
A.G. ERIC HOLDER: Failure is not an option.
That’s Plan B? Plan A will not fail?
Questioning by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) drew cheers and applause from 9/11 family members and New York Fire Department survivors who travelled to Washington for the hearing to object to Holder’s plans.
KYL: You have repeatedly said that your decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Article III courts is because that is where you have the best chance to prosecute… How could you be more likely to get a conviction in federal court when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has already asked to plead guilty before military commission and be executed?
HOLDER: The determination I make of where I think we can best try these cases does not depend on the whims or desires of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. … I have decided Article III courts are the best place to do that. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is not making this decision. The attorney general of the United States is making this decision.
I don’t think that was an answer.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) pressed Holder further on the issue of the case against Mohammad being dismissed due to violations of speedy trial or Miranda rights that are afforded to defendants in our federal court system, which could be a sticky issue in federal court.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: I don’t see how you can say that failure is not an option when you’ve got juries in this country.
HOLDER: If -- if there were the possibility that a trial were not successful, that would not mean that the person would be released into our country.
Terrific. We can just drop Khalid Sheik Mohammed back in Pakistan and let him pick up where he left off plotting and facilitating the efforts of Islamist nut jobs flying airplanes into our buildings.
The grand slam home run of the day came from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) when he grilled Holder on the damage being done to America’s war-fighting ability by Holder’s actions.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: Here’s my concern. Can you give me a case in United States history where an enemy combatant caught on a battlefield was tried in civilian court?
HOLDER: I don’t know. I’d have to look at that. I think that, you know the. . . the determination I’ve made. . .
GRAHAM: We’re making history here Mr. Attorney General. I’ll answer it for you: the answer’s no. The Ghelani case, he was indicted for pre-nine…for the Cole bombing before 9/11 and I didn’t object going into federal court. But I’ll tell you right now, we’re making history and we’re making bad history. And let me tell you why. If Bin Laden were caught tomorrow would it be the position of this administration that he would be brought to justice? … When does custodial interrogation begin in his case? If we capture Bin Laden tomorrow would he be entitled to Miranda warnings at the moment of capture?
HOLDER: Again, I’m not… it all depends.
GRAHAM: Well it does not depend. If you’re going to prosecute anybody in civilian court, our law is clear that the moment custodial interrogation occurs, the defendant, the criminal defendant, is entitled to a lawyer and to be informed of their right to remain silent. The big problem I have is that you’re criminalizing the war. That if we caught Bin Laden tomorrow, there are mixed theories and we couldn’t turn him over to the CIA, the FBI, or military intelligence for an interrogation on the battlefield because now we’re saying that he is subject to criminal court in the United States and you’re confusing the people fighting this war. What would you tell the military commander who captured him? Would you tell him you must read him his rights and give him a lawyer? And if you did tell him that would you jeopardize the prosecution in a federal court?
HOLDER: We have captured thousands of people on the battlefield, only a few of which have actually been given their Miranda warnings.
GRAHAM: … if we’re going to use federal court as a disposition for terrorists, you take everything that comes with being in federal court. And what comes with being in federal court is that the rules in this country, unlike military law, you can have military operations, you can interrogate somebody for military intelligence purposes and the law enforcement rights do not attach. But under domestic criminal law, the moment the person is in the hands of the United States Government, they’re entitled to be told they have a right to a lawyer and can remain silent. And if we go down that road we’re going to make this country less safe, that is my problem with what you have done.
During a break in the hearing, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a former prosecutor and top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke with HUMAN EVENTS Editor Jed Babbin about Holder’s “failure is not an option” remark.
“That was a very bad mistake, I think,” Sessions said. “First it’s contrary to the Department of Justice policy, the very department he heads. When I made reference to the strong case about Khalid Sheik Mohammed in my opening statement I said alleged. That’s the policy. I think this will be just one more thing defense lawyers will raise in a civilian trial and it could be a very difficult matter.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a former judge and member of the Judiciary Committee, spoke with Babbin about Holder’s admission that the Obama administration is still Mirandizing terrorists on the battlefield.
“It was news to me,” Cornyn said. “As I recall, KSM was picked up by Pakistani Intelligence and perhaps some of our people and he asked for a lawyer. Now he’s being given the rights an American citizen would have and there is some risk that a judge would throw out the whole case.”
We’ll have more on the Holder testimony and reactions from New York firefighters and the 9/11 families in coming days. To support the firefighters and 9/11 families petition against the trials that has garnered over 100,000 signatures since the announcement less than a week ago, click here