WASHINGTON – President Bush's proposal to try foreign terrorist suspects in a secret military court is justified by the magnitude of the Sept. 11 attacks and the continued threat of more violence, the White House said Wednesday.
Bush approved use of the secret court in cases involving terror assaults. His emergency order does not require approval from Congress.
"This is a new tool to use against terrorism," White House Counsel Albert Gonzales said.
The executive order applies only to people who are not U.S. citizens.
Lawyers said that a special military court would be able to try accused terrorists in greater secrecy and much more quickly than a conventional court can. Such tribunals haven't been seen in this country since World War II.
In the sort of court proposed, the government would have more freedom with evidence and statements it introduces into trial, according to David B. Rivkin, a Washington lawyer who published a legal paper on Bush's options this month.
Rivkin said a military court could use items of proof that would probably be excluded from a regular criminal case, and jurors would also be more likely to support a death sentence.
Convicted terrorists might be executed shortly after a trial, with few or none of the long delays for additional appeals that are common in criminal courts, lawyers said.
"The easy way [for the government] to go is a military commission," former military prosecutor A. Jeff Ifrah said.