The Instigator
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6 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should be tried in a US federal court.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/26/2010 Category: Society
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,654 times Debate No: 11876
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
Votes (1)




The Administration has recently come under heavy fire because of wishes to try terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the notorious self-proclaimed mastermind behind the events of 9/11, in a United States federal court in New York. Critics claim that justice would be better served through trial by military tribunal. The Affirmative posits that such critics are misguided in their analysis and that the infamous terrorist should be tried in a federal court.

Most criticisms of a federal trial for KSM are actually thinly veiled attacks upon the federal courts system itself. However, even these criticisms miss the mark.

Military tribunal has been suggested as a way of making sure that KSM does not use the trial as a soapbox for radical Islamic or anti-US views. However, neither federal or military courts allow broadcasts or recordings during the trial, and in both instances the media is only informed through press releases after the trial.

Others claim to attack KSM's federal trial on the grounds of national security. They claim that classified information is at risk under federal courts. However, legislation passed during the peak of the Cold War allows classified information to be withheld, substituting redacted summaries given to defense lawyers with defense clearances. Such actions are regularly taken when dealing with issues of national security, including terrorism cases.

Finally, there is ultimately no basis to any suggestion that a military tribunal would somehow increase the chances of conviction or result in harsher punishments. Indeed, past experience would indicate the exact opposite.

Most critics of the Obama Administration's desire to try KSM in a federal court completely ignore the 170 terrorists tried under federal law during the Bush administration. A prominent example is Zacharias Moussaoui. The federal courts have a long and established history of dealing with terrorists.

On the other hand, military tribunals have a long and established history of being incredibly confusing.

I will be frank: if someone were to ask me today what the exact differences between a federal and military tribunal were, I would have no response. If I were to ask Bill O'Reilly, FOX News commentator and prominent critic of a KSM federal trial, he would likely be unable to elaborate as well.

Such confusion is by no means unwarranted. The very concept of a military tribunal has been challenged by the Supreme Court multiple times. Unfortunately, however, such confusion can also be seen in the very lawyers working within the tribunal system.

Only three terrorists have been tried under tribunal since 9/11. Of the three, two are currently walking the streets. Salim Hamdan served a mere five months while David Hicks got off on a plea bargain.

Ultimately those who claim that military tribunals are the best choice in the KSM trial are unaware of the precedent set by hundreds of terror trials undergone by the Bush Administration. This precedent clearly indicates that a federal trial is the best option.


Whilst there have been many terrorists trialled in the federal court, few have been responsible for such a highly publicized attack as 9/11. The trial of the man responsible for the attack would also garner media attention. Whilst you claim that media attention for court cases has had no discernible effects in the past, I would argue this statement to be untrue. Political influence and personal bias present in the jury and judge would undoubtedly affect the outcome. With the widespread Islamic-hatred propagated in the West by the media, such preconceptions in those involved in the case are unavoidable.
I would argue that the trial would best be suited by being resolved in the international criminal court. This court is the most suitable for such a case as it is arguable that the effects of 9/11, while taking in place in the USA, had a detrimental effect on an international scale. Hence it is logical that the case should take place in the international criminal court.
Debate Round No. 1


My opponent's only argument is that a federal court trial would risk media exposure. This was directly addressed, preemptively, in my first round. In both military and federal courts, the media is only informed of the proceedings through press releases after the trial. If KSM attempts to espouse radical views, both federal and military judges reserve the right to "gag" or silence witnesses. My opponent has yet to provide a substantive reason to support a military tribunal.


I'm sorry, you mustn't have read clearly.
I proposed that he should be tried in the UN international criminal court, I did not mention a military tribunal. The argument of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed being tried in a US federal court would only make America appear as the 'world police'- the UN is a body specifically in place to deal with such instances of criminal, terrorist activity with international repercussions, it should be them.

Furthermore, I do concede that I ignored your comment that the media would not affect the case outcome.This is because without ANY evidence, the statement is meaningless. If you wish to propose such a statement, which seems to be a complete falsity, given there is no way that the media would ignore the trial of a terrorist responsible for 9/11, then please back it up with a source.
Debate Round No. 2


It appears that the Negative is unaware of the legal circumstances which differentiate federal, military, and international courts. While this is understandable it unfortunately obstructs the ability for the opposition to negate the resolution.

Firstly, the United States does not submit to the jurisdiction of any international court, and for good reason. Allowing an international institution with no legitimate authority to override the legal system established by the Constitution and by democracy isn't the best idea. Second, even if KSM was to be tried in the ICC or ICJ, he would still need to be prosecuted under the American system for various crimes, including conspiracy towards acts of terrorism and other crimes.

The other claims which I mentioned concerning differences between the federal and military trial systems are common knowledge for anyone who is able to speak on the issue, and could have been validated with a simple Google source. Yet the Negative has left my entire case untouched. The issue of media coverage, as well as other issue, are covered in the article below. To repeat, cameras and reporters are not allowed in the courtroom during criminal proceedings. The remainder of my case stands unchallenged. The resolution is affirmed. Vote Pro.


It is good form to actually take the time and read through what the opposition posts in a debate. I have responded to your arguments, and so far as I can tell you have not actually provided any reasons for KSM's trial in a federal court. You have just argued against criticisms made by other people, and all of said arguments were reasons against a military tribunal, not the ICC. In any case, round one of the debate is for posting reasons, not rebuttal.

So far as debate etiquette goes, dismissing the need for proof as the opponents responsibility is ludicrous- it is the instigators role to provide evidence for their own argument; the contender does not have to find support for your claims. And honestly, for many of them, I'm sure no proof could be found- you are merely making illogical assumptions which you seem to believe are concrete support for your argument.

You have made it clear that you can not comprehend the difference between a military tribunal and federal trial, going to the lengths to claim that critic Bill O'Reilly would not be able to tell the difference either, which is completely unfounded, as is nearly every statement you have made during this debate. Then you have argued that I cannot tell the differences either- with no evidence as to why i should not be able to, instead choosing to make loose statements as to why the US should remain the 'world police'- that the US legal system should be used in preference to the international criminal court because it is 'the legal system established by the Constitution and by democracy' is laudable- democracy does not write law, and the weak meataphor has only served to make you convoluted argument all the more confusing.

You have also stated that KSM would need to be trialled again, after an ICC trial, by the federal court. To what gain? If a conviction is met by the ICC court, then surely further trials are a waste of resources, and could only serve to compound the reprimands against KSM. With the loss of life involved in the 9/11 attacks, a life sentence would be the most likely outcome for the ICC trial.

But you should be congratulated on your capacity to argue the media influence component of our debate. You managed to jump to the conclusion that I believed that cameras and reporters were allowed into cases. Unfortunately for me, Judge Judy does not preside over federal cases. Damn. In case you didn't realize, I am just oozing the sarcasm right now.
Media coverage has always influenced cases- i have not, at any point, stated that the press would be in the room during the trial- I have only proposed that knowledge of the media, and the nation attention, serves to influence the jury's decision in a similar manner to peer pressure in the schooling system, to a much larger degree, of course. The website provided (4) includes a list of how the press has actually changed court decisions from as early as 1892.

The instigators argument in the previous round was limited to 'Allowing an international institution with no legitimate authority to override the legal system established by the Constitution and by democracy isn't the best idea'
This sentence alone showed a keen misunderstanding of the International criminal court. The ICC has jurisdiction in any situation covered in the ICC statute- this includes any war crimes and crimes of aggression(1). The 9/11 attack is beyond any reasonable doubt a crime of aggression. And your claim that the ICC has 'no legitimate authority' only serves to reaffirm your ignorance of its role in international cases and crimes that go beyond what national courts and law are equipped to deal with. The LRA, The Lords Resistance Army, and the party responsible for the ongoing political and military conflict in Ugandam, is currently having it's 5 top members trialled for war crimes- 'In the situation in Uganda, the case The Prosecutor v. Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen is currently being heard before Pre-Trial Chamber II. In this case, five warrants of arrest have been issued against [the] five top members of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA).' (3)
It would seem logical to assume that the ICC has legitimate authority, given the cases it deals with.

Furthermore, the US delegates actually believe that the ICC statute coincides with the constitution-
David Scheffer, who led the US delegation to the Rome Conference states that: "when we were negotiating the Rome treaty, we always kept very close tabs on, ‘Does this meet U.S. constitutional tests, the formation of this court and the due process rights that are accorded defendants?' And we were very confident at the end of Rome that those due process rights, in fact, are protected, and that this treaty does meet a constitutional test.'(2)

Finally, you have summed up your fallacious statements by arguing that trial in a criminal court is not 'the best idea'- why, might i ask, is that? You've had three rounds and only produced arguments against media coverage- a digression on my part, and reasons against a military tribunal, which is unrelated as neither of us is arguing this as a conceivable option. Even the one source you have provided throughout the debate refers to a military tribunal- could it be possible, that even by round three, you had not understood that the ICC is NOT the US military tribunal?

Due to the instigators inability to construct an argument supported by factual information, and the false allegations they have repeatedly made throughout the debate, I implore you to vote for the contender on this matter.

Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by InsertNameHere 6 years ago
Wasn't there already a few debates on this topic?
Posted by Rockylightning 6 years ago

"It is the mark of an educated person to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it"-Aristotle

That's what debate is about, debating the side you don't want to and learning how to see both sides of an argument.
Posted by savagebeast02 6 years ago
i would debate, but im pro.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Clockwork 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:60