During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions pressed Attorney General Eric Holder on whether presuming terrorists captured by the United States would be tried in civilian courts could hinder America’s intelligence gathering efforts.
“Isn’t it a fact that if you presumptively to try an individual who is a terrorist planning or plotting or attempting an attack on the United States that if you presumptively are going to move them into civilian court, they are entitled to Miranda warnings within a few minutes of arrest, they are entitled to an appointment of a lawyer, they are entitled to be brought publicly before a civilian magistrate, entitled to pre-trial discovery, entitled to a speedy trial?” Sessions asked. “Can that not be a detriment to interrogating that individual over a period of time and obtaining information that protect Americans from further attack?”
Holder denied that using the civilian system would be an impediment to obtaining information.
“I think if one looks at the way with which the civilian system has worked in the past, we’ve certainly had the ability to convict hundreds of terrorists,” Holder said. “We have gotten actionable intelligence from people who were tried ultimately in the civilian system. We have modified how Miranda should be viewed.”
Looking for clarity for military and law enforcement officials, Sessions asked Holder to state clearly whether it was U.S. policy to presume captured terrorists would be tried in civilian courts.
“My question to you fundamentally is every law enforcement officer involved out there, every military person involved out there needs to know what the policy is,” Sessions said. “So, is the policy that they [captured terrorists] would presumptively be tried in civilian court?”
Holder, citing the president himself, said there is a presumption of that captured terrorists would be tried in civilian courts.
“As I said, the archived speech that the president made was that there is a presumption,” Holder said. “It is not an irrebutable presumption that cases go to the civilian court with regard to the Miranda issue, but I think we have demonstrated hundreds of times, hundreds of times, that we can get actionable intelligence, while at the same time prosecuting people in jail for really extended periods of time.”