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Federal courts effective in prosecuting terror suspects: report

[JURIST] Federal courts provide an effective venue for prosecuting terror suspects, securing convictions in 89 percent of cases since 2001, according to a report [text, PDF; report highlights, PDF] released Wednesday by New York University's Center on Law and Security [official website]. The report found that in recent years, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] has prosecuted fewer high-profile terror defendants, choosing instead to indict those it is more likely to convict. Although the DOJ has used a number of controversial techniques, including relying on statutes that may be unconstitutionally broad, actions that some say amount to entrapment, reliance on confidential information that is not made public, and prolonged detention, the report found that most of these or similar practices do not differ greatly from tactics used in drug dealing and organized crime cases. The report concluded:

The trend lines demonstrate convincingly that federal courts are capable of trying alleged terrorists and securing high rates of conviction. While we can only assess the cases that have been brought, federal prosecution has demonstrably become a powerful tool in many hundreds of cases, not only for incapacitating terrorists but also for intelligence gathering. Much of the government’s knowledge of terrorist groups has come from testimony and evidence produced in grand jury investigations, including information provided by cooperators, and in the resulting trials.

According to the report, "the overwhelming evidence suggests that the structures and procedures, as well as the substantive precedents, provide a strong and effective system of justice for alleged crimes of terrorism."

Last week, the Associated Press reported that the Obama administration is considering trying [JURIST report] Riduan Isamuddin, the suspected planner of the 2002 Bali Nightclub Bombing [BBC backgrounder], in a federal court in Washington, DC. Earlier this month, the DOJ decided [JURIST report] that Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Obaidullah [DOD backgrounder] would be tried in a military prosecution, becoming the sixth detainee ordered prosecuted in this way since President Barack Obama ordered a review of the process last year. In November, Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] appeared before Congress to defend the Obama administration's decision [JURIST reports] to five alleged 9/11 conspirators in federal courts in New York and Virginia.

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