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Dems hail, Republicans bash decision to try 9/11 suspects in New York

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Giuliani on 9/11 trial in NY
  • Democrats: Decision is a demonstration of America's might and moral certainty
  • Military tribunals would have been better choice, says ex-N.Y. mayor Giuliani
  • Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Michigan: Bringing suspects into U.S. raises threat of attacks
  • Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island: Prosecuting terrorism suspects in civilian courts not new

Washington (CNN) -- Fearlessly demonstrating the majesty of U.S. justice or acquiescing to terrorists by giving them undeserved rights and a public platform?

The decision to bring Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, admitted mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks, and four other suspects to a New York courtroom, rather than a military tribunal, was described in stark contrasts Sunday by officials on opposing sides of the political spectrum.

Democrats hailed Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to try the men in a civilian court as a demonstration of America's might and moral certainty, while Republicans called it a bad idea based on politics rather than pragmatism.

"We have a judicial system that's the envy of the world," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said on the CBS program "Face the Nation." "I don't think we should run and hide and cower. Let's use our system."

But Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, speaking on the CNN program "State of the Union," questioned why foreigners who allegedly are terrorists at war with the United States should be given full judicial rights of U.S. citizens.

Video: Axelrod: Justice will be done
Video: Terror suspects in U.S. courts?

"These people are evil people," Gregg said of the defendants. "They represent a cause which wants to destroy this nation. If they have the opportunity and were to get free, they would try to destroy this country. There's no reason we should have them in the criminal justice system."

Former New York Major Rudy Giuliani, considered a possible GOP presidential candidate in 2012, called military tribunals created for terrorism suspects who have been held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a better option than a civilian court.

Military tribunals are "a better choice for the government," Giuliani said on "Fox News Sunday." "This choice of New York is a better choice for the terrorists. Why would you seek to give the terrorists a better choice than you're giving the public?"

In a separate interview on CNN's "State of the Union," Giuliani said a New York court trial would cause unnecessary stress and expense for the city's police force.

"Anyone that tells you that this doesn't create additional security problems, of course, isn't telling you the truth," Giuliani said. "And the best indication of it is, just look at the additional security that's going to be employed when this happens. That also happens to cost millions and millions and millions of dollars."

Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, warned that bringing the suspects to New York raised the risk of further attacks on the United States.

"Why move them into the United States while we are still under the threat from radical jihadists?" Hoekstra asked on the CBS program.

However, Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island said on "Fox News Sunday" that scores of terrorism suspects were successfully prosecuted in civilian courts under the Bush Administration.

"What was a statesmanlike decision by the Bush administration can't be a political decision by this administration," Reed said.

Holder announced the decision on the trial Friday. He said he expected all five suspects to be tried together and for prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

The trial would be open to the public, although some portions that deal with classified information may be closed, Holder said.