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"Several Democrats" Called for Military Tribunal for Moussaoui in 2001

1:51 PM, Nov 18, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Earlier today, Dick Durbin argued no one complained about Zacarias Moussaoui's trial in civilian court. In fact, as a friend on the Hill points out, "several Democrats" said the 20th hijacker should have been tried in a military tribunal:

During the Attorney General's appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning, Senator Durbin asserted that he did not recall any Republicans, and certainly no Democrats, complaining that Zacharias Moussaoui was not prosecuted before a military commission. Actually, two very prominent Democrats contemporaneously complained about that decision, including the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Armed Services.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on December 12, 2001 concerning President Bush's Military Order creating the military commissions, S. Hrg. 107-513, Senator Lieberman expressed that he was "troubled by the precedent that this sets" in prosecuting Moussaoui in a civilian court rather than the military commissions existent at the time. Senator Lieberman asked, "if we will not try Zacarias Moussaoui before a military tribunal, . . . who will we try in a military tribunal?"

The New York Times coverage of that hearing reported that "[s]everal Senate Democrats . . . [expressed] that Mr. Moussaoui appeared to be a perfect candidate for a military tribunal and that they were baffled about why no tribunal had been sought. ‘The glove fits so perfectly here,' Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said after [the] hearing." In its coverage of the hearing, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution referenced Senators Levin and Lieberman in its December 13, 2001 article under the title "Senators Question [Moussaoui] Terror Trial in Federal Court."

Oddly enough, after the Moussaoui trial began, even the Washington Post suggested, in a way that seems quite prescient in hindsight, that "it may be best" to have moved Moussaoui into a military commission, editorializing that "[t]he administration deserves credit for having tried to bring the Moussaoui case under the regular order. But the better part of valor now is to end the experiment." Editorial, Washington Post, "The Moussaoui Experiment," Jan. 27, 2003.