Rep. Peter King's Hypocritical Call For AG Holder's Resignation

April 07, 2011 2:35 pm ET — Matt Gertz

Rep. Peter King

In a New York Daily News op-ed today, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, calls on Attorney General Eric Holder to resign for continuing to prefer trying terror suspects in civilian court rather than by military commission:

On Monday, as Attorney General Eric Holder stood at the podium at the Justice Department headquarters in Washington to announce that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other 9/11 terrorists would be tried by military commissions at Guantanamo, he still insisted that he'd much prefer to try them in civilian courts.

The guy just doesn't get it -- and because he doesn't, he should resign forthwith.

Needless to say, King offered no such criticism when 9/11 terrorists were tried by civilian courts during the Bush administration.

In December 2001, Zacarias Moussaoui was indicted in federal court for his role in the September 11 attacks. King did not react by calling for then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to step down. Over the next four and a half years, Moussaoui worked his way through the civil court system. King remained silent. 

After the jury refused to give Moussaoui the death penalty in May 2006, King went on MSNBC's Hardball and said that he disagreed with their decision, but he didn't call on then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign for letting the case be handled in the federal system. Of course, King is hardly alone in disappearing the Bush administration's use of civil trials in such cases.

Indeed, even when the United States' past success at trying 9/11 terrorists in federal court has been brought to his attention, King has chosen to ignore the facts.

In November 2009, King was interviewed on Fox News alongside David Remes , who served as an attorney for some of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Asked how he responded to Remes' statement that the U.S. had successfully prosecuted Moussaoui in the civil system, King dodged the question:

MARTHA MACCALLUM (ANCHOR): Peter King, how do you respond to that though? How do you respond to the claim that it has been handled before and handled efficiently and well with the right outcome?

KING: I think, to me, the overriding issue, first of all, it's definitely going to increase the terror threat to New York. I have great faith in the NYPD and the U.S. Marshals Service. But the Federal Protective Service has said that they don't have enough personnel right now and they're going to try to get them in time for the trial.

But it is going to definitely heighten the level of terror threat to New York and that's a reality and its police taking it from something else who are going to be assigned to this. But to me the more overriding issue and this is where Mr. Remes and I am sure are very honest but forceful difference is that I think we're going back to a pre-September 11th mindset by allowing these defendants to have constitutional rights and be tried in a civilian court when I believe they should be treated as enemy combatants before a military tribunal because it's going to change the rules of warfare here.

I believe when these detainees are captured that they should be interrogated and we should try to get information out of them rather than have to prepare for a trial.