9-11 Terrorism Trial Could Move to New Venue Because of Security and Cost Concerns

By Matthew Harwood

Political opposition, the threat of terrorism, and security costs have begun to eat away at the Justice Department's decision to try the mastermind behind the 9-11 attacks and four co-conspirators in federal court in Manhattan, according to numerous media reports today.

According to the ABC News, the Obama administration is seeking a new venue to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four co-conspirators in civilian court as bipartisan resistance mounts to holding the trial in Manhattan. (subscription only), however, reports that the Justice Department still plans on prosecuting the detainees in the city but is considering other venues if Congress blocks its plan to hold it in lower Manhattan.

The possible reversal arises as growing political opposition in New York and within Congress mounts to trying the five high-value detainees in the city, who are currently held inside a military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an original supporter of trying the defendants in New York City, said during his weekly radio show on Wednesday that he had reconsidered, citing the economic impact and disruption. Other New York politicians have also registered their opposition to the plan this week, including Gov. David Paterson and U.S. Congress members Reps. Nydia Velasquez and Jerrold Nadler and Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand--all Democrats.

According to the New York Police Department, securing lower Manhattan for the trial could cost up to $200 million a year, reported New York's Daily News. New Yorkers have bristled at the notion that they should pony up the tax dollars to pay for the trial. "One idea all New Yorkers agree on is that New York taxpayers should not have to pay a dime for these trials," Schumer said in early Jan.

On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of six senators wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder urging him to change the trial venue from federal court in lower Manhattan, just blocks away from where the Twin Towers came crashing down, to military commissions, Fox News reported.

Then on Thursday, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) introduced legislation (H.R. 4542) that would deny the Justice Department funds to prosecute any detainee held at Guantanamo Bay in U.S. civilian courts.

King called the Obama administration's decision to try the five detainees in civilian court "one of the worst decisions ever made by any president." He added "Guantanamo terrorists like KSM don’t belong in any federal civilian courts; they belong in military commissions, which Congress established for the express purpose of bringing them to trial while safeguarding classified intelligence.

In a furious editorial today, Daily News headline said "Get the hell out of here." The paper's editors recommend that Mohammed and his co-conspirators face a military tribunal either at Guantanamo Bay or at a military base on U.S. soil with "built-in security."

 ♦ Photo of U.S. Courthouse at Foley Square, New York City, by wallyg/Flickr


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