Ashcroft opposed to civilian 9/11 trials

OVERLAND PARK _ Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, who on Friday endorsed fellow Republican Todd Tiahrt's U.S. Senate campaign, condemned the Obama administration for moving the trial of Sept. 11 terrorism suspects to civilian rather than military court.

Ashcroft, who served as attorney general at the time of the attacks, said the trials could endanger the public and give anti-U.S. elements a public stage to voice their rhetoric.

He also said prosecutors will have to publicly disclose evidence, which could compromise efforts to monitor and break up future attacks.

' 'If your top priority is the liberty and life of American citizens and the security of their lives and liberty, then this decision is less than optimal,'' he told reporters before a fundraiser for Tiahrt. ''I believe we are still in a very significant war on terror. The administration doesn't appear to believe that we are in a war on terror.''

Attorney General Eric Holder decided last week to send professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged henchmen from a detention center at Guantanamo Bay to New York to face a civilian federal trial instead of facing a military tribunal.

He and President Obama have defended the decision, saying prosecutors have enough evidence to find the men guilty and that the nation's intelligence secrets can be protected in a public trial. Holder also told lawmakers judges can prevent defendants from grandstanding and being disruptive during their trials.

Tiahrt, a congressman, said he filed legislation this week seeking a House vote on whether to keep the trials under military jurisdiction.

Tiahrt, who has represented the 4th District of south-central Kansas since 1995, is locked in a tough race for the Republican Senate nomination with fellow Rep. Jerry Moran, who has represented the 1st District of western and central Kansas since 1997.

Moran, who has been endorsed by such GOP luminaries as Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, also opposes moving the terrorism suspects from Cuba to New York, said campaign manager Aaron Trost.