by Barbara Fyfe & Jim Fyfe
November 25th, 2009
This article first appeared as an Op Ed in the News and Observer of Raleigh, NC
DURHAM — After several years with no action coming out of the military commissions system, the cases of five men suspected in connection with the 9/11 attacks will finally move to federal courts. The Obama administration should be applauded for this important step toward securing justice Americans can believe in.
Our son, Karleton D.B. Fyfe, was killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Like all Americans who lost a loved one that day, we want to see the people responsible for orchestrating this nightmare suffer the consequences of their horrific deeds. Unfortunately, we’ve waited a long time for that possibility.
We have watched the cases of the accused become clouded by secrecy and tainted by the last administration’s disregard for the law. We, and many other 9/11 family members, support the Obama administration’s decision to move these cases to federal courts where they can finally move forward instead of being caught up in the legal obstacles of the Guantánamo fiasco (ill-advised experience).
The Guantánamo military commissions have achieved only three convictions since their inception. On the other hand, our federal courts have successfully prosecuted scores of terrorism suspects both before and after 9/11, including such notorious criminals as “Shoe Bomber” Richard Reid and 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussoui. And they have done so while protecting both sensitive national security information and American values of fairness and due process. There is no reason these same courts couldn’t securely manage the 9/11 terrorism cases.
Although recently improved by Congress, the military commissions cannot shed the legacy of Guantánamo; marginal improvements of a besmirched system will not be recognized by the world at large. With the transfer of these cases out of the military commissions system and into federal courts, all of us will finally be able to have confidence in their outcomes. Trying these cases on U.S. soil will be a powerful symbol of the openness of our culture.
There are also simple logistical benefits to transferring the cases. The military commissions were held in secretive courts on an island in the Caribbean, where most Americans have not had the opportunity to observe them. Moving these trials to federal courts on American soil will make it easier for other 9/11 family members to attend.
Our prison system is fully capable of securely holding convicted terrorists; even New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said that he has “great confidence” that local law enforcement and federal authorities “will handle security expertly.”
Guantánamo has become an international symbol of the missteps taken after 9/11. Moving these cases out of the military commissions and into our trusted U.S. court system is an admirable way to show the world that we’re returning to our values – that America is ready to stand up for due process, fairness and human rights. Doing so can help re-establish our global standing and rightful reputation as a beacon of strength and freedom.