Osama bin Laden will likely never be tried in a U.S. courtroom but killed before being captured, said Attorney General Eric Holder.
Osama bin Laden will likely never be tried in a U.S. courtroom but killed before being captured, said Attorney General Eric Holder. AP Photo
Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress Tuesday that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden would never be tried in a U.S. courtroom.
Testifying before a congressional committee, the point Holder was making was less about the administration's philosophy on where terrorists should be tried and more about the practical realities.
As Holder explained, either bin Laden would be killed by U.S. forces as he resisted capture or he would be killed by his own people in order to keep him from falling into U.S. hands.
Holder did not shy away from his stance that suspected or known terrorists could be tried in U.S. criminal courts, a position he has taken intense criticism for both before and during Tuesday's House Appropriations Committee hearing.
For instance, at one point Holder suggested that bin Laden and convicted murderer Charles Manson weren't all that far apart in the eyes of the law. That came in an exchange with Rep. John Culberson, a Texas Republican.
REP. CULBERSON: And terrorists have murdered U.S. citizens —
and the approach of your Department of Justice is they have the same
rights as Charles Manson.
ATTY GEN. HOLDER: In the sense that a murderer has the right to
go before a jury, get the acts that he's charged with proven beyond a
reasonable doubt, yes.
REP. CULBERSON: So, therefore, Osama bin Laden, in your opinion,
has the same rights as Charles Manson.
ATTY GEN. HOLDER: In some ways — I think they're comparable
people in some ways.
Holder's comment about bin Laden never being tried in a U.S. courtroom came in an exchange Holder had with Rep. Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican.
REP. WOLF: So my question to you is, if you catch Osama bin Laden alive,
will it go to an Article III court or will it go to a military court?
ATTY GEN. HOLDER: I am not trying to dodge this one, I just
don't think the — the possibility of catching him alive —
REP. WOLF: Well, but let's assume — but we can't —
ATTY GEN. HOLDER: — is infinitesimal.
REP. WOLF: Okay. But if —
ATTY GEN. HOLDER: Either he will be killed by us, or he will be
killed by his own people so that he is not captured by us. We know
REP. WOLF: But, Attorney General, I respectfully, I'm not —
that was a (trick ?) — (inaudible) — sincerely, what if we do,
though, catch him alive? That's the question.
ATTY GEN. HOLDER: And what I'm saying is that — and maybe I was
being a little flip with Mr. Culberson, and perhaps (I shouldn't be ?)
REP. WOLF: Okay, we'll just —
ATTY GEN. HOLDER: — about, you know, reading Miranda rights to
his corpse, because I think that's what we're going to be dealing
with. He is not going to be alive.
REP. WOLF: Well, but the question was, what if he is alive? And
I think the gentleman raised a legitimate case. And from my
perspective, we — our government is setting a precedent with the
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian court in New York City. And I
think that's the real — the real danger.