WASHINGTON -- Saying America can't afford the costs or the threat to national security, U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and a bipartisan group of other senators on Tuesday introduced legislation that would forbid public funding for a civilian trial for the alleged Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attackers.
Instead, the senators want the government to try alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terror suspects in a military courtroom at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"We should not give those who planned the attack of Sept. 11 constitutional rights that are guaranteed to American citizens," Chambliss said.
The Obama administration wants to try the suspects in civilian court in part to show the world that the United States can give the attackers a fair and open trial. But since Congress controls the government's purse strings, a civilian trial could be stopped if the proposed legislation passes.
Attorney General Eric Holder wanted to try Mohammed in federal court in New York City, but city officials now say it will be too expensive and a logistical nightmare. The Justice Department is considering alternative cities.
Trying the Sept. 11 attackers anyplace but in a military courtroom is simply wrong, said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who drafted the legislation.
"We’re not fighting a crime; we're fighting a war," said Graham, a former U.S. Air Force lawyer who still teaches law in the Air Force Reserve. "And to criminalize this ... puts our nation at risk."
Joining Graham, Chambliss and other Republicans in co-sponsoring the legislation are Democratic U.S. Sens. Jim Webb of Virginia and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, and Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
Graham sponsored a similar measure that was defeated in November. But that was before another attacker tried to blow up a Detroit-bound jet on Christmas and before Republicans gained new clout in January's U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts.
Graham denied some Democrats' charges that his proposed legislation is politically motivated.
"I'm not playing politics here," he said. "I'm trying to find a way forward that makes sense."
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