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Holder/Gates to Pelosi/Boehner: “it would be unwise…to restrict the discretion of our Departments”

Holder/Gates to Pelosi/Boehner: "it would be unwise...to restrict the discretion of our Departments" - top government contractors - best government contracting event
Attorney General Eric Holder
Attorney General Eric Holder
Attorney General Eric Holder

In an open letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader John Boehner, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Attorney General Eric Holder asked Congress to refrain from intervening in decisions to try terrorists in civilian or military courts.

Secretary Gates and Attorney General Holder cite Article III of the constitution giving the Department of Justice authority to prosecute criminals, and the Military Commissions Act of 2009 that reformed the execution of Military Commissions.

The letter says, “The exercise of prosecutorial discretion has always been and should remain an Executive branch function,” and goes on to say “we have been unable to identify any precedent in the history of our nation in which Congress has intervened in such a manner.”

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

The full letter is available on the Department of Justice’s website here, or below.

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable John Boehner
Minority Leader
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Boehner:

We write to express our opposition to any legislation or amendments that would restrict the ability of the Executive branch to effectively prosecute alleged terrorists in Federal courts or reformed military commissions in the United States.

As you know, both the Department of Justice (in Article III courts) and the Department of Defense (in military commissions, reformed under the Military Commissions Act of 2009) have responsibility for prosecuting alleged terrorists, and we ensure that all relevant factors are carefully considered when determining the appropriate forum in which to try a particular case.

Furthermore, Congress has voted on multiple occasions to permit detainees currently held at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be transferred to the United States for prosecution in either Federal courts or reformed military commissions.

The exercise of prosecutorial discretion has always been and should remain an Executive branch function. We believe it would be unwise and would set a dangerous precedent for Congress to restrict the discretion of our Departments to carry out specific terrorism prosecutions.

Indeed, we have been unable to identify any precedent in the history of our nation in which Congress has intervened in such a manner to prohibit the prosecution of particular persons or cnmes.

In order to protect the American people as effectively as possible, we must be in a position to use every lawful instrument of national power ““ including both courts and military commissions ““ to ensure that terrorists are brought to justice and can no longer threaten American lives.

Robert M. Gates
Secretary of Defense

Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General

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