Obama Nominee for Deputy Attorney General Says 9/11 Attacks Not Acts of War, Likens Them to Domestic Crimes of Murder, Rape
June 14, 2010 - 5:44 PMPresident Obama's nominee to be the number two official at the Justice Department wrote an op-ed likening the 9/11 attacks to drug crimes, murder, rape and child abuse, while arguing the perpetrators ought to be treated like domestic criminals.
“But the attorney general is not a member of the military fighting a war--he is a prosecutor fighting crime,” Cole wrote in a Sept. 9, 2002 article in Legal Times that critiqued the way then-Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft was handling the 9/11 case.
“For all the rhetoric about war, the Sept. 11 attacks were criminal acts of terrorism against a civilian population, much like the terrorist acts of Timothy McVeigh in blowing up the federal building in Oklahoma City, or of Omar Abdel-Rahman in the first effort to blow up the World Trade Center,” said Cole. “The criminals responsible for these horrible acts were successfully tried and convicted under our criminal justice system, without the need for special procedures that altered traditional due process rights.
“Our country has faced many forms of devastating crime, including the scourge of the drug trade, the reign of organized crime, and countless acts of rape, child abuse, and murder. The acts of Sept. 11 were horrible, but so are these other things,” Cole wrote in his op-ed.
Cole did concede in his Legal Times piece that an “arguable difference” between domestic rape, child abuse and murder and the 9/11 attacks was that foreign organizations and perhaps even countries were involved in the latter. “But we have never treated such influences as a basis for ignoring the core constitutional protections ingrained in our criminal justice system.”
He pointed to the war on drugs as an example where significant damage to the United States has been done, where foreign powers have been involved, but where the U.S. still used its domestic justice system for dealing with the problem.
“The ‘war on drugs’--a longer term and far more devastating disaster for our country in terms of the number of affected people has been facilitated by foreign organizations and governments,” he wrote. “Yet, even after Panamanian President Manuel Noriega was arrested by U.S. military forces in Panama, he was brought to the United States, tried in the federal courts, and had full access to counsel, a trial by jury, the right to cross-examine witnesses, and the right to present his own defense.”
Cole’s Sept. 9, 2002 Legal Times op-ed is included in materials he submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of his confirmation process. He is scheduled to appear in the committee on Tuesday for a confirmation hearing.
Cole is a partner with the law firm of Bryan Cave in Washington, D.C.
The group 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America opposes Cole’s confirmation.
“Mr. Cole has gone on record opposing military commissions for any detainees, stating that military commissions are an inferior form of justice which do not provide defendants with adequate due process protections,” said Debra Burlingame, co-founder of the group, in a statement. “In light of the fact that the Obama administration continues to drag its feet on an announcement regarding the forum and venue for the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other admitted 9/11 conspirators, Mr. Cole's nomination is an alarming signal. The public is overwhelmingly opposed to holding these trials in New York federal court. Clearly, the administration needs to hear from us again.”
A Sept. 14, 2001 resolution by Congress authorized the president to use "all necessary and appropriate force" against those involved in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.