Staten Island Senator Once Again Wastes Albany's Time With Terrorist Trial Bill

State senator Andrew Lanza explaining how we should all be afraid.
State senator Andrew Lanza explaining how we should all be afraid.
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New Yorkers can rest assured that even as heated negotiations over rent control regulations continue in the assembly, some elected officials are still finding time to demonstrate the true purpose of government — scaring voters with meaningless, symbolic grandstanding.

Just ask State Senator Andrew Lanza, a Republican of Staten Island who last week introduced — for at least the third time — a bill he hopes will force the federal government to abandon the idea of trying terrorism suspects in civilian courts.

His measure would prohibit the NYPD, State Police and New York National Guard from spending any money on security for trials of “enemy combatants” in New York courts. That would effectively force the federal government to pay for security, and, as Lanza explained, hopefully convince the feds to go back to military tribunals for terrorism suspects.

Lanza employed a good ol' fashioned, fear-based argument to make his case, telling his colleagues that “the principals of and al Qaeda and ISIS have announced they will attack any location where their brothers in terrorist jihad are being brought to justice.” Trying terror suspects would make New York City a target, Lanza said, presumably more than usual. So he's saying we’d be extra-targeted. Super-targeted even.

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“It is without question that these civilian trials bring great danger…to my home city of New York,” Lanza continued.

Of course, Lanza may want to review the headlines from the last year or so, because several-high profile accused terrorists have already been tried in New York, and sources tell the Voice that the sky over Manhattan has not yet fallen.

For example, the trial of Suleiman Abu Ghaith — whom the government says is the highest-ranking al Qaeda figure ever prosecuted — was held in a Manhattan court room last fall. That trial managed to proceed with nothing more than an extra metal detector outside the court room. And have we all forgotten the chaos wrought by the trials of Abid Naseer, in March, and Mostafa Kamel Mostafa, in May? Each was tried, convicted, and sent to prison for life terms, just like Abu Ghaith. And somehow, life in the city marched on.

Lanza’s bill actually passed the senate, 42-21, but if the past is any guide, it won’t make it through the assembly, which is probably good for Lanza. That means he’ll get to introduce it again next year, invoke 9/11 and have another opportunity to take a completely pointless, factually indefensible “stand” against terrorism. 

You can see the debate over the bill below, starting at 3:14:00


Jon Campbell is a staff writer for the Voice, covering criminal justice, legal issues, and the occasional mutant park squirrel. Tip him at jcampbell@villagevoice.com and follow him on Twitter at @j0ncampbell

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