NEWS

How Will NYC, Federal Government Secure KSM Trial?

By Matthew Harwood

Immediately following the announcement that the Department of Justice will prosecute self-admitted 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators in federal court in New York City, opponents of the plan pounced.

One of the many arguments against trying Mohammed, Walid Bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al-Hawsawi for their roles in orchestrating the 9-11 attacks is that the trial will only make New York City an already bigger terrorist target than it is now.

"While I have the utmost respect for and confidence in the NYPD and US Marshals Service, these terrorists' new home and the courthouse in which they'll be tried will immediately move to the top of al Qaeda's target list -- requiring significant local resources to protect the city that is already a top target," wrote Rep. Peter King (R-NY), ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee, in the New York Post on Saturday.

In April, King wrote Attorney General Eric Holder a letter imploring him not to transfer Guantanamo detainees, like Mohammed and his four alleged co-conspirators, to New York City for prosecution.

"The southern district courthouse is within walking distance of ground zero, City Hall … NYPD headquarters (and) Wall Street. … It is reckless to impose the risk of these trials on New York for no good reason," King wrote, according to New York's CBS2.

Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor who led the prosecution against Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, told Fox News the move endangered lives and drew on a previous example where an al Qaeda prisoner got violent in custody to make his point.

McCarthy cited a violent attack by Mamdouh Salim, a former Al Qaeda operative who was being held in 1998 at the Metropolitan Correction Center in New York -- the prison facility likely to house the five alleged Sept. 11 plotters. Salim blinded a prison guard and stabbed him with a sharpened comb, causing extensive brain damage in what federal officials say was an attempt to take hostages and escape. Salim had been extradited to the United States from Germany for his role in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya.

But New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly says his police force can handle it.

"We're the biggest law enforcement agency in the country. We've handled high profile events, certainly high profile trials in the past -- and we'll be able to do it," Kelly told New York's CBS2.

The New York Times also reported on what security precautions New Yorkers can expect when the five alleged terrorists get transferred to New York.

Convoys of heavily armed officers, fields of barricades and additional checkpoints are likely to sprout in and around the jail where the accused will be housed and the courthouse where they will be tried. Access to nearby streets and areas may be sealed off. And bands of plainclothes officers — “people in civilian clothes with earplugs,” as one former law enforcement official put it — will probably be scanning the crowds to spot anyone with ill intent.

The Times also reports that U.S. marshals will handle security during the suspects' transport to the courthouse as well as security once they get inside the courthouse. Before and during the trial, Mohammed and the other alleged co-conspirators will likely be detained in a high floor of the Metropolitan Correction Center in lower Manhattan, where alleged ponzi Bernie Madoff was held during his trial.

According to the New York Daily News, the prison known as "10 South," is "so tough, it drives hardened criminals mad."


♦ Photo of the Metropolitan Correctional Center from Wikimedia Commons

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