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Debates

Treat Terrorists Like Enemy Combatants, Not Criminals

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  • Marc Thiessen on Terrorists and Law

    Clip: Marc Thiessen argues for the motion, "Treat Terrorists Like Enemy Combatants, Not Criminals."

  • David Frakt on Terrorists and Law

    Clip: David Frakt argues against the motion, "Treat Terrorists Like Enemy Combatants, Not Criminals."

  • Stephen Jones on Terrorists and Law

    Clip: Stephen Jones argues against the motion, "Treat Terrorists Like Enemy Combatants, Not Criminals."

  • Michael Hayden on Terrorists and Law

    Clip: Michael Hayden argues for the motion, "Treat Terrorists Like Enemy Combatants, Not Criminals."

Debate Details

In 2009 the Justice Department announced that 9/11 plotter Khalid Shaikh Mohammed would be tried in New York City, setting off a firestorm of protests. Besides the cost and safety concerns, at issue are whether terrorists should be tried in criminal court or whether national security requires the use of military commissions. Likewise, issues like the closing of Guantanamo, the reading of Miranda rights, and enhanced interrogation all center on the same question: How should the U.S. treat captured alleged terrorists? In a war with no foreseeable end, whose actors are neither criminals nor soldiers, can we keep America safe and still bring terrorists to justice?

The Debaters

For the motion

Michael Hayden

Former Director of the CIA and NSA

With a prolific career in national security – from serving 39 years in the U.S. Air Force to directing the NSA for six years – General Michael Hayden... Read More

Marc Thiessen

Former chief speechwriter to President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Served as chief speechwriter to President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and before that as a senior aide to Senate Foreign... Read More

Against the motion

David Frakt

Professor, Barry University's Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law

Is a professor at Barry University's Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law and a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve JAG Corps.Read More

Stephen Jones

Managing Partner, Law firm of Jones, Otjen, and Davis.

Is managing partner of the law firm of Jones, Otjen, and Davis. In May 1995, he was appointed by the U.S. District Court to serve as the principal... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • We are a nation at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates. This war is global in scope, and only the laws of armed conflict will keep us safe.
  • The President, the Congress through the Authorization for Use of Military Force, and the Supreme Court through its Hamdi decision, have all declared that we are a nation at war.
  • The opposing side would like to give Geneva Convention rights to terrorists, even though they violate all rules of war.
  • The reason there hasn’t been another terrorist attack since 9/11 is because we abandoned a law enforcement approach to terrorism.
  • If you are taking the law enforcement approach to interrogation, patience is a virtue. If you are trying to stop a terrorist attack, patience is deadly.  
Against The Motion
  • We have a robust criminal justice system. Law enforcement works hand in hand with intelligence—they don’t wait until after a crime has been committed, they are working to detect crime before it happens.
  • It’s a misperception that reading people Miranda rights means they’re never going to talk. It’s true that some are advised to remain silent, but quite often, people will divulge a great deal of information.
  • Locking people up indefinitely without charge and subjecting them to a full range of interrogation techniques is fundamentally un-American.
  • Ask yourself: Should we sacrifice our ideals, our history, and our beliefs as a nation for security? And is this security real, or temporary?
  • We do have the power to detain and remove from the battlefield people engaged in active conflict. The problem is that the war has been defined in such amorphous terms that there’s a claim of a global battlefield that includes the United States.

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The Research

The Research

Civilian Courts are No Place to Try Terrorists

Michael B. Mukasey
October 19, 2009

Fighting Terrorism Fairly and Effectively

Human Rights Watch November
March 1, 2016

Remarks by Vice President Cheney at the American Enterprise Institute

Richard B. Cheney May 21
March 1, 2016
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