A study of eight years of federal terrorism prosecutions found prosecutors have been able to win convictions nearly 90 percent of the time, an indication that neither the use of classified information nor issues of constitutional rights have caused "insurmountable obstacles" in the cases.
In a review of 828 cases filed in federal courts from 2001 through 2009, the Center on Law and Security at New York University Law School said the results showed that "federal courts are capable of trying alleged terrorists and securing high rates of conviction."
The ability of the federal government to use civilian courts has become an issue in legal and political circles following the Obama administration's decision last year to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four suspected 9/11 accomplices in federal court in Manhattan. Some critics contend prosecutors might have to pull their punches at trial to protect classified information and confidential sources. Others have said constitutional constraints might prevent the use of coerced statements.
Among the other findings in the survey were that, of the 593 terrorism cases that went to trial or a guilty plea, 89 percent resulted in convictions. Almost 35 percent of all the 804 defendants indicted were U.S. citizens, followed by 12 percent from Colombia, 7.5 percent from Pakistan and 2.7 percent from the Palestinian territories, according to the survey. The center said it couldn't determine the citizenship of 157 defendants.
Karen Greenberg, director of the center, said the prosecutions have helped develop intelligence through trial testimony, grand jury proceedings and cooperating witnesses.