AG Holder: NY still possible site for terror trialby TOM BRUNE
April 14, 2010
WASHINGTON - The Obama administration is still weeks away from a decision on where to hold a trial for the accused 9/11 plotters, and New York remains a possible site, Attorney General Eric Holder told senators Wednesday.
"No final decision has been made about the forum in which Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-defendants will be tried," he said. "New York is not off the table as a place where they might be tried."
In November, Holder announced the trial would be held in Manhattan near Ground Zero, but Wednesday he said it also could be held somewhere else in New York, or even outside the state.
Holder's refusal to drop New York as a site irked Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who have lobbied the White House to move the trial."The Southern District of New York is a much larger place than Manhattan," he said of the judicial district, which has courtrooms in Manhattan, White Plains and Middletown.
"We know the administration is not going to hold the trial in New York," Schumer said after the hearing. "They should just say it already."
King was more critical, saying he was "shocked" and "appalled" by Holder's testimony, and called on President Barack Obama to "assert his authority and make the final decision that these trials will not be held in New York City."
A presidential national security team is reviewing the site after Mayor Michael Bloomberg turned against the trial because of cost and disruption, and after King and other lawmakers moved to block funds for a New York trial. The White House and Bloomberg declined to comment.
Holder called the decision "a very close call" as he again defended the effectiveness of the criminal justice system for gaining intelligence and bringing alleged terrorists to justice against sharp GOP criticism.
Some Republicans argued for a trial in a military commission instead of a civilian court. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said, "Pretending that terrorists can safely be treated as common criminals will not make it so."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Holder he supported many of his attempts to fashion a flexible but tough legal approach to terror suspects, but he also said the accused 9/11 plotters should be tried before a military commission.
Wednesday, Holder also confirmed the U.S. government will hold 48 Guantánamo detainees indefinitely without charges or trials under laws of war because they're "too dangerous to transfer and not feasible for prosecution." The ACLU condemned it as "illegal and un-American."
Holder also clarified earlier testimony that should Osama bin Laden be captured, he would "never appear in an American courtroom" and "the reality is, we'll be reading Miranda rights to a corpse."
Wednesday he said, "Our hope would be to capture him and to interrogate him." But he added, "I think it's highly unlikely that he will be taken alive."