Military Courts For Terror Suspects?


Washington (CNN) – A majority of Americans want terror suspects to be tried in military rather than civilian courts, according to two new national polls.

An ABC News/Washington Post survey released Wednesday morning indicates that 55 percent of the public would rather have suspects accused of taking part in the September 11 terrorist attacks tried in military tribunals rather than in the country's federal court system. That's a switch from last November, when the poll indicated that Americans were split.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll also released Wednesday morning, 59 percent want September 11 terror suspects tried in military courts, with 35 percent saying they should face trial in civilian courts. And nearly 7 out of 10 people questioned feel that terror suspects should not receive all of the constitutional protections afforded by a civilian trial.

The Quinnipiac survey suggests a partisan divide, with Democrats split, while nearly 3 out of 4 Republicans and 6 out of 10 Independents supporting military trials. The poll also indicates that 3 out of 4 voters think the suspect who allegedly tried to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day be tried as an enemy combatant rather than as an ordinary criminal, but by a 52 to 42 percent margin, they approve of the FBI's advice to the suspect of his right to remain silent.

"When it comes to how suspected terrorists should be treated by the American judicial system there is a significant gap between the American people and President Barack Obama," says Peter Brown, assistant Director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Although they give the President a 49 to 44 percent approval rating on handling terrorism, the devil is in the details.

When it comes to his decision to treat suspected terrorists as common criminals deserving of civilian trials rather than as enemy combatants judged by military tribunals they are strongly in the other corner. There is a similar disconnect on the basic question of whether suspected terrorists should have the same rights as ordinary criminals. But voters agree, however, with the Obama administration decision to advise the suspect in the Christmas bombing attempt of his right to remain silent."

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released last month also indicated that a majority of Americans think that the alleged suspect in the Christmas Day attempted airliner attack should be tried in military court. And a CNN poll released in November indicated that two-thirds of the public wants Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, to be tried in military court.

The ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted February 4-8, with 1,004 adults questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted February 2-8, with 2,617 registered voters questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 1.9 percentage points.

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