Terrorism and the Law of War: Trying Terrorists as War Criminals before Military Commissions [Updated December 11, 2001] [open pdf - 339KB]
"On November 13, 2001, President Bush signed a Military Order pertaining to the detention, treatment, and trial of certain non-citizens as part of the war against terrorism. [...] The order finds that the effective conduct of military operations and prevention of military attacks make it necessary to detain certain non-citizens and if necessary, to try them 'for violations of the laws of war and other applicable laws by military tribunals.' The unprecedented nature of the September attacks and the magnitude of damage and loss of life they caused have led a number of officials and commentators to assert that the acts are not just criminal acts, they are 'acts of war.' [...] The purpose of this report is to identify some of the legal and practical implications of treating the terrorist acts as war crimes and of applying the law of war rather than criminal statutes to prosecute the alleged perpetrators."
CRS Report for Congress, RL31191