POLITICS

CNN Asks Whether Terror Suspect, A U.S. Citizen, 'Deserves' Due Process

It is not a valid question just because Donald Trump thinks it is.
Police load Ahmad Khan Rahami, a suspect in several bomb plots, onto an ambulance after he was shot.
Police load Ahmad Khan Rahami, a suspect in several bomb plots, onto an ambulance after he was shot.

CNN openly mused on Tuesday about whether the U.S. citizen apprehended for his alleged role in a terror plot was entitled to due process under the law.

A Twitter user spotted a chyron on the cable network with the question: “Does bombing suspect deserve due process?”

Contrary to CNN’s suggestion, no one “deserves” or does not deserve due process. U.S. citizens on American soil are guaranteed due process rights by the Constitution. Those rights include being informed of one’s charges, the right to counsel and a fair trial. (Even non-citizens on U.S. soil are entitled to these rights.)

Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas School of Law, wrote as much in a column on CNN’s website.

Law enforcement arrested Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, on Monday in connection with his alleged role in an explosion in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood and the planting of other explosive devices throughout the region. He was hospitalized for injuries sustained in a shootout with police in Linden, New Jersey. 

CNN’s discussion of Rahami’s legal rights appears to have been prompted by the comments of top Republicans. Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, lamented that Rahami was given medical treatment and is entitled to a lawyer provided by the federal government to defend himself in court, if he cannot afford one on his own.  

Trump’s apparent assertion that Rahami should be denied any kind of due process ― and the implicit credence CNN gave his view ― is a clear repudiation of the rights every criminal defendant is afforded under the Constitution.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a critic of Trump, also called on the Obama administration to label Rahami an “enemy combatant,” a category that would not require him to be tried in civilian courts. But even defendants tried in the United States’ military courts are entitled to medical care and legal representation.

Zachary Goldman, executive director of New York University Law School’s Center on Law and Security, said that there is “no reason why” Rahami should not be tried in civilian courts.

“These courts have been used to convict dozens if not hundreds of terror suspects in the post-9/11 era,” he said. “Military commission trials, because they are untested, the trials have taken a very long time. The ability to quickly secure a disposition of the trial in a way that is broadly accepted as legitimate by everybody is considerably greater in the normal civilian court system.”

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