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Bush defends military tribunal decision

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Using military tribunals instead of criminal courts to try suspected terrorists is "the absolute right thing to do," President Bush said Monday.

"The option to use a military tribunal in a time of war makes a lot of sense," said Bush, reacting to criticism of his decision to let military courts handle terrorism cases. " We're fighting a war ... against the most evil kinds of people. And I need to have that extraordinary option at my fingertips."

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Under an order Bush issued last week, military tribunals could be used to try non-citizens accused of terrorist acts, using rules set out by the secretary of defense. Individuals brought before the tribunals would have no right to a jury trial, no right to confront their accusers and no right to judicial review of trial procedures or sentences, which could include death.

Critics on the left and right have assailed the order, saying it is too far-reaching and compromises American principles. The House Judiciary Committee is considering holding hearings on Bush's order.

But Bush said military tribunals are necessary to maintain national security in the event that terrorists are captured alive, and said they would spare criminal court jurors from potential harm. He also noted that President Franklin Roosevelt issued a similar order during World War II.

"These are extraordinary times," he said "This government will do everything we can to defend the American people within the confines of our Constitution. And that's exactly how we're proceeding."



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