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A panel of the American Bar Association found the magnitude of the crime committed on Sept. 11 justifies limited use of military tribunals to try suspected terrorists, the lawyer’s group said Monday. “The unprecedented and horrible attacks of Sept. 11 demonstrated that the United States faces an organized enemy with the resources and the will to cause mass death and destruction in the United States and elsewhere,” the study panel wrote in a report sent to the Pentagon on Monday. “It is the duty of our government to bring those responsible to justice and to take all legal measures to minimize the possibility of future terrorist attacks, consistent with its duty to preserve fundamental rights and liberties.” The Pentagon is putting final touches on rules for military tribunals and has formed an office to deal with details such as where the tribunals might operate. Under an executive order issued by President Bush, military tribunals to try non-American suspects are an option for the president and prosecutors. They also could decide to try in civilian courts all those facing terror charges. The report submitted to the Pentagon does not represent a policy statement from the full ABA, the nation’s largest lawyers’ group with more than 400,000 members. Such a statement could come next month, when the organization’s policy-making body meets in Philadelphia. A long list of civil liberties groups has criticized Bush’s preliminary plans to use special military tribunals to try foreigners suspected of involvement in the September hijackings and attacks. The ABA’s president has urged the White House to move with caution but has taken no formal position. The ABA has opposed government monitoring of suspects’ conversations with their lawyers. The association created the panel on terrorism and the law to look at legal and civil liberties questions arising from the attacks and the United States’ war on terrorism. Military tribunals like those outlined by Bush on Nov. 13 should be used only in “narrow circumstances in which compelling security interests justify their use,” the panel’s report said. For example, military tribunals should not be used to try anyone legally in the United States nor anyone in the United States accused of crimes unrelated to the Sept. 11 attacks, the panel said. The panel recommended the tribunals follow rules for regular military courts-martial, which differ from civilian rules but nevertheless accord recognized legal rights for defendants. Use of tribunals instead of regular civilian courts, which have broader protections for the accused, “would be a controversial step,” the ABA panel wrote. “If conducted under reasonable procedures, … they can deliver justice with due process.” Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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