WASHINGTON Two former federal prosecutors say that when it comes to handling accused terrorists, the best way is the old way: Put them on trial in civilian courts, not military tribunals.
A report examines 123 terrorist cases from the past 15 years, and the study's two principal authors say that the courts were able to produce just, reliable results while protecting national security.
The report comes at a time when the Bush administration's system of military commissions remains mired in delays.
Whether the case is the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 or the East African embassy bombings in 1998, judges, juries, defense attorneys and prosecutors are able to get the job done correctly, they say.
Although the justice system is far from perfect, it has proved to be adaptable and has successfully handled a large number of important and challenging terrorism prosecutions, said New York lawyers Richard Zabel and James Benjamin of the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
The two former assistant U.S. attorneys worked with the group Human Rights First in conducting the study, "In Pursuit Of Justice." It was being released Wednesday in Washington.
By any measure, the current setup that begins with administrative detention at Guantanamo Bay has failed when compared with the record of the criminal justice system, says Michael Posner, president of Human Rights First.
The study said that in courtrooms:
Prosecutors have used an array of law enforcement tools in the war on terrorism, from specially tailored anti-terrorism laws to generally applicable criminal laws.
The government has balanced defendants' fair trial rights with the need to protect national security information by using the Classified Information Procedures Act, which lays out a system for accommodating both.
Federal sentencing laws prescribe severe sentences for many terrorism offenses and experience shows that terrorism defendants have generally been sentenced to lengthy prison terms.