U.S. Terrorism Cases Actually Proceed Quickly

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Despite President Trump’s comment that the U.S. criminal justice system is “a laughingstock” too weak to deter terrorism and too slow to mete out punishment, experts said the U.S. is tougher on terrorism than most other nations, and they called Trump’s claim that extremists who launch attacks on American soil “go through court for years” an exaggeration, the New York Times reports. Attackers in deadly terrorism plots in the U.S. are “rarely caught alive,” said Karen Greenberg of the Center on National Security at Fordham University School of Law. The attackers were killed in deadly shootings believed to be inspired by Islamic extremists in 2002 at Los Angeles International Airport; in 2015 in Chattanooga, and in San Bernardino, Ca.; and in 2016 at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fl. Suspects who do survive their attacks have been dealt with swiftly and severely in federal courts.

From Sept. 11, 2001 through 2015, the Justice Department reported 627 terrorism-related convictions. In most cases, convictions were brought within two years after indictments were issued. Many of those that took longer involved extraditing suspects to the U.S. from abroad. “My impression is that the U.S. has higher conviction rates and higher sentences for terrorism charges than the U.K., Australia or Canada,” said Kent Roach of the University of Toronto. “I cannot think of another country, except perhaps China, that would have higher convictions and longer sentences in terrorism cases than the United States.” About 87 percent of resolved terrorism cases in the decade after the 2001 attacks resulted in convictions, with an average sentence of 14 years in prison, said the Center on Law and Security at New York University. On Thursday, the president backed off the idea of sending Saipov to Guantánamo Bay because that process could take longer than the civilian court system.

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