In a brief and personal chat with the mother of a Sept. 11 victim today, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. implored the woman to "trust us," saying the Justice Department has made the right decision to prosecute terrorism suspects in federal district court.
Alice Hoagland, who lost a son when Flight 93 crashed in a Pennsylvania field, told Holder today that she takes “great exception to your decision to give short shrift to the military commissions.”
Hoagland traveled from California to attend today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Holder was the lone witness, and his decision to prosecute alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in federal court dominated the dialogue. Republican committee members criticized the move, calling it dangerous and unnecessary.
“I think I speak for many 9-11 families when I say that we are heartsick and weary of the delays and the machinations. I am afraid the theatrics are going to take over at this point, and I very much regret that,” Hoagland told Holder, flanked by staff and security. The attorney general and Hoagland chatted after Holder testified for four hours at the Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing. The chat was not planned.
“Well think of this, though,” Holder responded. “You know, for how long have these cases been pending? I’ve been attorney general now for eight or nine months, and we’ve taken, I think, the first step towards resolving these matters. We are going to go through a process. They will undoubtedly try to do things in court – as they did in the military commissions. I mean, they did things there. Judges can handle it.”
Holder said he respects Hoagland’s concerns. “I think what we have done is put in motion a process that will finally, finally resolve these matters,” he said. “I did not give short shrift to the notion of military commissions. This was a tough decision.”
Holder told Hoagland that Justice attorneys “are folks who want to enforce the law, who want to hold people accountable for the crimes that they committed and irrespective of what they might have done in their prior professional lives are hardworking DOJ employees now who I think will make the American people proud.”
Hoagland said she “abhors” torture. She said she hopes DOJ overcomes what she called “objections” from human rights groups regarding the treatment of Guantanamo Bay detainees. (Holder testified earlier that the government doesn’t need Mohammed’s statements to successfully prosecute him.)
“This is almost a trust me thing, I suppose,” Holder told Hoagland. “There are reasons why bringing this case in an Article III court, when it comes to the admissibility of certain evidence, is really the right way to go and really maximizes our chances of getting a successful outcome.”
After several minutes, back and forth, Holder and Hoagland shook hands. “I am sorry for your loss,” Holder said as he walked away.