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Deputy AG nominee criticized on Obama administration terrorism approach

The US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] on Tuesday held a hearing [materials; video] to consider the nomination [JURIST report] of James Cole [nomination materials] for deputy attorney general. Republican members of the committee used the hearing to offer criticism of the Obama administration's approach to fighting terrorism [JURIST news archive] and to question the commitment of the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] to using all tools necessary to prevent future terrorist attacks. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) [official website], the ranking Republican on the committee, questioned Cole's qualifications to serve as deputy attorney general, citing an op-ed written by Cole [text, PDF] following the 9/11 terrorist attacks [JURIST news archive] in which Cole referred to the attacks as a criminal act and indicated that the attorney general's job was to prosecute crimes, not act as part of the military. Sessions condemned this philosophy, which he viewed as rejecting the use of military tribunals to try terrorist suspects. He also questioned Cole's position on reading terrorist suspects their Miranda rights. Sessions indicated he thought Cole's nomination provided troubling insight into the current DOJ's view on terror, calling the approach, "an adherence to the failed 9/11 enforcement approach to Islamic terrorism that focused on indictments rather than intelligence and individual suspects rather than the individual terrorist networks." He also called on the DOJ to "reject this blind adherence to the pre-9/11 criminal law mindset." Witnesses supporting Cole's appointment maintained that his views have been validated by US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] rulings in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and Boumediene v. Bush [JURIST reports].

US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] and the DOJ have been heavily criticized by Republicans for the decision to try certain terror suspects in federal court and because of two-high profile terror cases where the suspects were given their Miranda warnings [JURIST report]. Last month, lawmakers introduced a bill [JURIST report] that, if passed, would strip US citizenship rights from those suspected of engaging in terrorism in order to prevent the warnings from being given in the future. In February, Holder defended his decision [JURIST report] to try the so-called "Christmas Day Bomber", Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], in federal court. A week later, Holder indicated that he would be open to a more "flexible" approach [JURIST report] when considering whether to try terrorism suspects in civilian or military courts.

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