Congressional Republicans – along with independent Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman – are not happy with the Obama administration's decision to try alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (left) and four other Guantanamo Bay detainees in civilian federal court in New York.
"The Obama Administration's irresponsible decision to prosecute the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks in New York City puts the interests of liberal special interest groups before the safety and security of the American people," said House Republican leader John Boehner in a statement. "The possibility that Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his co-conspirators could be found 'not guilty' due to some legal technicality just blocks from Ground Zero should give every American pause."
"This decision is further evidence that the White House is reverting to a dangerous pre-9/11 mentality – treating terrorism as a law enforcement issue and hoping for the best," he added.
Sen. Republican Whip Jon Kyl, meanwhile, said "It is a constant amazement to me that there are some who seem more concerned about extending legal protections to terrorists than security protection to Americans."
Added Sen. John Cornyn: "These terrorists planned and executed the mass murder of thousands of innocent Americans. Treating them like common criminals is unconscionable."
"Our court system was never designed for this purpose," said Sen. Jeff Sessions. "These trials will turn lawyers, juries, and judges into targets, and will needlessly endanger Americans living nearby. They will give men like 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed an international stage to mock America and advance his own celebrity and jihad."
New York Republican Rep. Peter King suggested the decision makes New York City more of a target for terrorists.
Lieberman argued that "the terrorists who planned, participated in, and aided the September 11, 2001 attacks are war criminals, not common criminals."
"Not only are these individuals not common criminals but war criminals, they are also not American citizens entitled to all the constitutional rights American citizens have in our federal courts," he said. "The individuals accused of committing these heinous, cowardly acts of intentionally targeting unsuspecting, defenseless civilians should therefore be tried by military commission rather than in civilian courts in the United States."
"It is inconceivable that we would bring these alleged terrorists back to New York for trial, to the scene of the carnage they created eight years ago, and give them a platform to mock the suffering of their victims and the victims' families, and rally their followers to continue waging jihad against America," he added.
Democratic Sen. Jim Wedd of Virginia also critized the move, calling it "disruptive, costly, and potentially counterproductive."
"[W]e must be especially careful with any decisions to bring onto American soil any of those prisoners who remain a threat to our country but whose cases have been adjudged as inappropriate for trial at all," he said in a statement. "They do not belong in our country, they do not belong in our courts, and they do not belong in our prisons."
Former Congressman Tom Andrews, Director of the National Campaign to Close Guantanamo, applauded the decision and directly responded to the critics.
"Partisan, fear based attacks by right-wing critics of President Obama are likely, including the charge that trying suspects of the 9/11 attack in U.S. courts will endanger Americans," he said in a statement Friday morning, as the decision was being formally announced. "In fact, 195 terrorists have been convicted in U.S. federal courts since 2001. The terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 were tried and convicted in U.S. courts and are now locked away in a federal supermax prison. Yet Republicans in Congress will no doubt attack the transfer of these detainees as a threat to Americans."
"Those responsible for 9/11 are not warriors, they are criminals and mass murderers," Andrews added. "Treating them as anything else plays into al Qaeda's hands and rewards them an elevated status that only stokes their desire for 'martyrdom.' They need to be subjected to the full force of law and justice – nothing less."
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, also defended the decision, calling it "a step toward bringing long overdue justice to the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001."
"I have always believed that the nation's federal courts are capable of trying high profile terrorism and national security cases," he said. "They have proven time and time again to be up to the job...By trying them in our federal courts, we demonstrate to the world that the most powerful nation on earth also trusts its judicial system – a system respected around the world."