Trump Says He’d Try U.S. Citizens in Guantanamo Bay Military Tribunals
Donald Trump said in an interview Thursday that he would support trying US citizens suspected of terrorism in military tribunals — a controversial proposal that would likely be challenged as unconstitutional.
The Republican presidential nominee told the Miami Herald that he doesn’t “at all” like the idea of trying terrorist suspects in the civilian court system, even though US citizens are constitutionally entitled to due process. He added that he would be “fine” with trying US citizens in military tribunals at Guantánamo Bay, the US naval base that is also home to a military prison housing captured terror suspects.
“Well, I know that they want to try them in our regular court systems, and I don’t like that at all. I don’t like that at all,” he told the Herald. “I would say they could be tried (in military commissions), that would be fine.”
President George W. Bush authorized the trial of non-citizens who engage or support acts of terrorism after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but a US citizen has never been tried in military courts under that order.
Most constitutional experts and several senior Republican senators — including Sen. John McCain — strongly opposed proposals to try Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon bombers and a naturalized US citizen, in military court.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether Trump was concerned about infringing US citizens’ right to due process under the Constitution.
Trump has repeatedly called for toughening the US approach to terrorism, and has suggested he would continue to capture and detain terror suspects at Guantánamo, though he would not commit to imprisoning terror suspects there as prison.
“I want to make sure that if we have radical Islamic terrorists, we have a very safe place to keep them,” Trump told the Herald.
Trump has also called for waterboarding terrorism suspects and “worse” forms of torture, calls that have alarmed civil liberties advocates, international lawyers, and US military officials.
While Trump again criticized President Barack Obama’s policies in combating terrorism, Obama has also drawn fire from civil liberties advocates for authorizing the drone killings of US citizens engaged in terror activities against the US without trial.
The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution each contain a due process clause. Due process deals with the administration of justice and thus the due process clause acts as a safeguard from arbitrary denial of life, liberty, or property by the Government outside the sanction of law. Due process ensures the rights and equality of all citizens.