Defense officials say military tribunal not considered for terror suspect

Defense Department officials Wednesday said they were not asked by the Justice Department whether Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person indicted so far in the terrorist attacks, should face a military tribunal rather than be tried in civilian courts, the Associated Press reported.

"To the best of my knowledge there was not a discussion with the Justice Department," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the Senate Armed Service Committee.

Senate Democrats criticized the decision, saying Moussaoui was a perfect case for at least consideration for a military tribunal.

"It's hard to imagine that, in a matter that fits the military tribunal order the way that Mr. Moussaoui's case apparently seems to fit it, that you weren't consulted," said Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., said sending Moussaoui--"a big fish" in the investigation--to a civilian court would set a bad precedent on who goes before a military tribunal, since he was indicted for conspiring in the deaths of the people who died in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, Afghan tribal commanders set a new deadline Wednesday for the surrender of a group of al-Qaida fighters cornered in a mountain canyon under heavy U.S. bombardment, demanding that top terrorist suspects, possibly including Osama bin Laden, also turn themselves in. An earlier deadline of Wednesday morning passed without their surrender.

Saying they wanted to end the carnage, tribal Eastern Alliance leaders issued a new ultimatum, giving the men from bin Laden's terror network until noon Thursday [2:30 a.m. EST Thursday] to surrender. But the alliance said it would not accept their surrender unless any top leaders with them also turned themselves in.

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