U.S. Policy in the Wake of 9/11: Military Commissions
In 2001, President George W. Bush issued a controversial executive order that attempted to establish tribunals to prosecute war crimes by Al Qaeda members and affiliates.
The Bush administration maintained that because detainees were foreign and not being held on American soil, they did not have the right to challenge their status in American court rooms; they were not entitled to the protections laid out by the international Geneva Convention; and they could be held indefinitely. The order gave the president absolute power to designate enemy combatants of the United States and to set his own definitions of torture and coercion. He effectively gave himself the power to create military commissions without consulting Congress.
While there are Americans who believe suspected terrorists in U.S. custody should be tried in the U.S. federal court system, there are also many who believe that these suspected criminals should not be offered legal protection under the Constitution of a nation they have condemned. The group 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America collected signatures for a 2009 letter to President Obama that states that none of the 9/11 conspirators were informed of their Miranda rights before detention, and that they, therefore, cannot be considered common criminals. The letter states, "The public has a right to know that prosecuting the 9/11 conspirators in federal courts will result in a plethora of legal and procedural problems that will severely limit or even jeopardize the successful prosecution of their cases. Ordinary criminal trials do not allow for the exigencies associated with combatants captured in war, in which evidence is not collected with CSI-type chain-of-custody standards."
» American Civil Liberties Union. "Military Commissions Act of 2006."
» Center for Constitutional Rights. "Factsheet: Military Commissions."
» 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America. "9/11 Families Back Military Trials in Letter to President Obama."