Terrorists belong in the U.S. courts

Former congressman Rob Simmons' recent commentary, "United States needs a third option for terrorist trials," published Dec. 9, demands a measured response and a stern reminder. It ignores decisions that led to danger in the first place.

Attorney and former congressman Bob Barr disagrees. He signed on to a statement saying that our courts "are the proper forum for terrorism cases" and that federal prisons are "fully capable of safely holding" terrorists.

What courts do best

Barr recognizes what our courts do best. This was the same Bob Barr who used to think like Simmons.

It's not about affording someone rights. It's about accurate discovery, something that military tribunals have failed at. Anyone being held incommunicado will say anything just to be released. The same applies to torture. Cookies have led to better information.

It costs lives when we waste time on inaccurate or false information. That was the case with Simmons' assertion of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. As the CIA warned former President Bush before he spoke, that "intelligence" came from a known pathological liar seeking American citizenship. The entire argument that Hussein was in league with Bin Laden led to unnecessary casualties. It also contributed to Bin Laden's escape.

Simmons-style fear mongering and the political games have to stop. We should also stop listening to people who have been wrong on this at the expense of lives on a routine basis. Every time we've gone with Simmons' approach, and the Democrats were no different on the economy, health care and the environment, the arguments were predicated upon fear of unacceptable consequences. They all insisted on fixing what isn't broken. We have only damage to show for it.

9/11 Commission

Simmons also references the 9/11 Commission, whose work was repeatedly impeded by the Bush administration. Not only did the 9/11 Commission avoid who funded the attacks and how, its product is incomplete and tainted at best. We truly don't have all the information we need to track down all the participants with the goal of preventing terrorism.

The rules of evidence and the adversarial nature of our courts need to be applied. What Simmons proposed in his initial support of military tribunals tossed proven, 200-plus-year-old methods to determine the facts. Those facts save lives, prevent violence and bring criminal conspiracies to an end when they become known.

The entire framework Simmons took an oath to defend and protect isn't just there to accurately determine fact. It's also there as a safeguard against abuse and ineptitude. Instead of recognizing how far down the rabbit hole we've gone since 9/11, Simmons defies the very system he swore to protect by referring to "our civilian constitutional protections" as a problem. If you have evidence and you follow the rules, there are no pitfalls. Those protections exist to ensure justice. That's in a court system with a conviction rate over 95 percent.

If we want to use terrorism as an excuse to undo protections afforded to everyone since the Magna Carta, we've done more damage than any terrorist could ever hope to. There's no freedom to defend at that point. We've also put Americans at grave risk of another spectacular attack, but a far more terrible one from within at the hands of a tyrant.

Simmons, Rudy Giuliani-style, invokes the memory of 9/11 in an attempt to say that our courts aren't good enough to deal with the issue. These are the same courts that were able to deal with the Mafia, which was far more capable of doing massive damage in the type of situation Simmons describes.

Simmons' "third option" obscures the damage done by us to the very thing we sought to defend. It's a further invitation to hide behind the veil of "sensitive intelligence information" as the guilty run free, gross negligence is concealed and we rarely find out.

The Founding Fathers already framed an appropriate judicial response. They also put letters of marque and reprisal in the Constitution for a specific reason. That reason was to go after people responsible for violent acts - not a waste of human life as the guilty escape. Guantanamo and CIA black sites remind us of why we have due process and a Bill of Rights.

Simmons helped create this judicial chimera. His suggestion of any judicial process is both incredible and surprising.

Dan Reale lives in Plainfield and has run as a Libertarian Party candidate for Congress in the 2nd District.


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