Comparison of Rights in Military Commission Trials and Trials in Federal Criminal Court [January 26, 2010]   [open pdf - 266KB]

"The Obama Administration's decision to try certain detainees and other terrorist suspects in federal criminal court, including those accused of conspiring to commit the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the man arrested after a failed aircraft bombing on Christmas Day, 2009, and to try other detainees by military commission, has focused attention on the procedural differences between trials in federal court and those conducted under the Military Commissions Act (MCA), as recently amended. Some who are opposed to the decision argue that bringing detainees to the United States for trial poses a security threat and risks disclosing classified information, or could result in the acquittal of persons who are guilty. Others have praised the decision as recognizing the efficacy and fairness of the federal court system and have voiced confidence in the courts' ability to protect national security while achieving justice that will be perceived as such among U.S. allies abroad. Some continue to object to the planned trials of detainees by military commission, despite the amendments Congress enacted as Title XVIII of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, P.L. 111-84, because they say it demonstrates a less than full commitment to justice or that it casts doubt on the strength of the government's case against those detainees. Four bills have been introduced in the House of Representatives to require military commission trials for certain classes of suspected terrorists or to authorize their detention: H.R. 4111, H.R. 4463, H.R. 4415, and H.R. 4127. One bill in the Senate, S. 2943, would require the Attorney General to consult with the Director of National Intelligence as well as the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security prior to proceeding against a terrorism suspect in the criminal justice system."

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CRS Report for Congress, R40932
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