White House says cities have a say in holding terror trials

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others are charged in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others are charged in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. (Muslim.net Via Associated Press)
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By Associated Press
Monday, February 1, 2010

The Obama administration said Sunday that it will consider local opposition when deciding where to hold Sept. 11 trials and pledged to seek swift justice for the professed mastermind of the 2001 attacks.

"Khalid Sheik Mohammed is going to meet justice, and he's going to meet his maker," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. "He will be brought to justice, and he's likely to be executed for the heinous crimes that he committed in killing and masterminding the killing of 3,000 Americans. That you can be sure of."

Objections from New York City officials and residents have intensified since the Justice Department announced late last year that it planned to put Mohammed and others accused in the 2001 terrorist attacks on trial in federal court in Lower Manhattan. In its new budget, the administration is proposing a $200 million fund to help pay for security costs in cities that have terrorist trials.

White House aide David Axelrod said New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) and other city officials have changed their minds after initially supporting the decision for trials in the city, citing logistics and costs.

"The president believes that we need to take into consideration what the local authorities are saying," Axelrod said. "But he also believes . . . that we ought to bring Khalid Sheik Mohammad and all others who are involved in terrorist acts to justice swift and sure." Safety and cost have been issues in the debate, but some officials also have questioned the administration's legal strategy of using civilian courts for the suspects instead of military tribunals.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said the administration should shift the trials to military courts, which he said have been reviewed by Congress to ensure fairness. He and other Republicans have criticized officials for charging Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in civilian court in the Christmas airliner plot instead of turning him over to military authorities.

"We have to make a distinction between a kid who breaks into a sandwich shop in Detroit and a Nigerian terrorist who wants to blow up an airplane flying into Detroit," Alexander said.

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) indicated that he did not support the request for $200 million for civilian trials, saying he favored trying terrorism suspects safely, quickly and inexpensively.

"If there's somewhere we can try them without spending that money, why spend the money? We've got a lot of other fiscal problems," Bayh said.

Gibbs spoke on CNN's "State of the Union," Axelrod, on NBC's "Meet the Press," and Alexander and Bayh on "Fox News Sunday."

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