Billion dollar nightmare looms as Obama refuses to rule out holding 9/11 terror trials in NYCBY KENNETH R. BAZINET
February 7, 2010
WASHINGTON - The feds may still try the 9/11 terror thugs near Ground Zero, President Obama said yesterday, shocking critics.
"I have not ruled it out, but I think it's important for us to take into account the practical, logistical issues involved," Obama told CBS News anchor Katie Couric.
"I mean if you have a city that is saying no, and a police department that is saying no, and a mayor that is saying no, that makes it difficult," Obama acknowledged.
The White House asked Attorney General Eric Holder late last month to look for alternatives to a trial in Manhattan Federal Court.
Local opposition stiffened as it became clearer the trial could be a billion-dollar nightmare - and it stiffened again yesterday in reaction to Obama's new comments.
Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.) said the answer is to give up altogether on the plan for a trial in a civilian court and choose military justice.
"Bottom line is the 9/11 trials do not belong in New York; they belong in Guantanamo," King said. "The KSM [Khalid Shaikh Mohammed] trial would put New York at unnecessary risk. We have already endured enough."
Critics have said the trial would saddle the city with $200 million in annual security costs for up to fiveyears and would disrupt a vitalcommercial and residential district still rebuilding from thehorrors of 9/11.
Holder is carefully reviewing the Justice Department's options, but a secure alternative site to try Sept. 11 mastermind Mohammed and his four co-defendants isn't easy to come by, administration officials have said.
There are several logistical issues to be considered, including the security and cost concerns raised by Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, but also finding a site convenient enough for victims' families and local witnesses, sources said.
Julie Menin, the chairwoman of lower Manhattan's Community Board 1, said Obama needs to say where he stands on the issue once and for all.
The President "should unequivocally state that he will not hold these trials in New York City and then figure out where they're going to move the trial," she said.