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Republicans blast Obama, Holder for delay on 9/11 trial

By Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Producer
  • Father of victim blames Obama for lack of "swift justice"
  • Rep. Sensenbrenner ties timing of announcement to president's re-election campaign

Washington (CNN) -- One day after Attorney General Eric Holder placed the blame squarely on Congress for forcing him to place the 9/11 plot conspirators before a military court in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Congress struck back.

At a congressional hearing dominated by Republican lawmakers and a panel heavy with Obama administration critics, the much-delayed decision was met with derision and accusations of partisan politics.

"I find it a strange coincidence that the administration decided to announce this 180-degree turn in policy the day before this hearing, and on the very same day that the president announced his re-election campaign," said Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, the House Judiciary panel chairman. "I and many others believe that the security of the United States should not depend upon politics."

First to testify was David Beamer, father of United Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer, who led the in-flight attack on the hijackers of the Washington-bound plane, which crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. His son's final command "Let's roll" seemed still fresh in the minds of lawmakers of both parties who repeatedly offered condolences to the father.

David Beamer harshly criticized the president for what he believes was an unnecessary two-year delay in meting out justice.

"The policies of this administration cause us all to grieve anew. Instead of swift justice, President Obama worries that a military tribunal will offend the Muslim world. What about the effect of this needless delay on the morale of the American people?" he asked.

Rep. Dan Lungren, R-California, and other lawmakers vigorously applauded Beamer's testimony. After Lungren was admonished for violating the rules that prohibit such demonstrations, he issued a soft apology.

"I apologize for leading the applause after Mr. Beamer's testimony but it was in my experience here one of the finest pieces of testimony that I have heard."

Democratic lawmakers pushed witnesses to acknowledge that a civilian trial could still be a suitable venue for future terrorism trials.