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Why civilian courts are best for terror trials, especially Boston bombing suspect

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OPINION: How to protect Americans from anti-terrorism data sharing

Europe has increasingly combated terrorism through the criminal justice system, significantly expanding laws for arresting, trying, and detaining terrorism suspects. The Tsarnaev trial may therefore help to harmonize US counterterrorism efforts with those of our closest international counterterrorism partners, while also allowing America to more effectively participate in the global counterterrorism conversation.

The US Justice Department has proven both remarkably efficient and effective at putting terrorism on trial. As research by NYU’s Law and Security Center shows, the Department of Justice has averaged about 30 terrorism indictments a year since 2001. (The exception to this statistic is from 2009-2010 when, on the heels of increased law enforcement sting operations and a renewed focus on extremists associated with the terrorist group Al-Shabaab, rates nearly doubled.)

Most of those trials have proceeded without the use of classified evidence, and over half have involved American citizens. Like Tsarnaev, 60 percent of these American defendants had no direct affiliation with a terrorist organization.

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