Family member of 9/11 victim presses Attorney General on trials
After the sharp exchanges of words between Attorney General Eric Holder and senators about trying the Sept. 11 suspects in criminal court fell quiet, a soft-spoken woman who lost her 31-year-old son that day approached.
Alice Hoagland’s son Mark Bingham died on hijacked United Flight 93 which crashed in rural Pennsylvania and she had come to Washington to attend the Senate Judiciary Committee’s oversight hearing of the Justice Department where Holder’s decision about prosecuting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others was the main subject.
“I take great exception to your decision to give short shrift to the military commissions and to put the five most heinous criminals and war criminals into court in New York City,” an emotional Hoagland told Holder. “It will give these ugly people, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh especially, very eloquent access to all the media sources in the United States.”
That is one of several complaints some family members of the Sept. 11 victims have made. Others have worried that it will make the trials and prisons targets for attack. But some families have welcomed the trials in New York and want the suspects prosecuted quickly.
Holder took exception to Hoagland’s points, gently but firmly telling her that he did fully consider the military commissions as a venue for the terrorism suspects and that Mohammed and the others had tried to use the military commission trials at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as a platform for espousing their views.
“This was a tough decision,” he told Hoagland, adding that he is privy to evidence that has not been made public that he believes makes the government’s case to convict the five suspects.
“This is almost a trust me thing I suppose, there are reasons why bringing this case in an Article III (criminal) court when it comes to the admissibility of certain evidence is really the right way to go and really maximizes our chances of getting a successful outcome,” Holder said.
After their five-minute encounter, Hoagland told reporters that while she appreciated Holder’s remarks, she was unpersuaded and even opposed his decision to seek the death penalty against Mohammed and the others.
“Listening to Attorney General Holder throughout the course of this morning into the afternoon has persuaded me that he is a sincere man,” she said. “I don’t think he’s changed his mind and I know I haven’t changed my mind.”
— Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Holder testifies to Senate Judiciary Committee.)