U-turning Bam open to 9/11 military trialBy GEOFF EARLE in DC and DAVID SEIFMAN in NY
New York Post
February 14, 2010
The White House is keeping alive the possibility of trying Khalid Sheik Mohammed in a military tribunal -- after initially moving to try the 9/11 terror mastermind in civilian courts in lower Manhattan.
"At the end of the day, wherever this case is tried, in whatever forum, what we have to ensure is that it's done as transparently as possible and with adherence to all the rules," Attorney General Eric Holder told The Washington Post.
"If we do that, I'm not sure the location or even the forum is as important as what the world sees in that proceeding," he said, in comments indicating the administration's initial strategy is far from set.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs wouldn't rule out using the military courts yesterday, saying, "There are a series of a things that are being looked at, most appropriately the security and logistical" concerns of New York.
The feds also appear to be pulling the plug on a plan to hold the trial in New York, Rep. Peter King (R-Long Island) said.
"I believe the decision has been made to take the trial out of New York," King, the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, said at a City Council hearing.
"But when they announce that, they'll have to announce where it's going to go . . . I don't know of any other jurisdiction that wants the trial, that's going to be asking for it, that would not fight back."
The White House has been battered by critics over its plan to try Mohammed and four cohorts now at Guantanamo Bay.
Mayor Bloomberg, after initially expressing support for holding the trial in New York, said it would be a major logistical headache, as did Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).
Republicans, meanwhile, have slammed President Obama for extending constitutional protections to terror suspects.
Complicating matters further are statements by Gibbs and other top officials, such as that Mohammed would be executed, that could prejudice a jury.
Obama told CBS News last weekend that he hadn't ruled out holding the trial in New York but was taking local objections into consideration.
If he does back off a civilian trial, Obama faces major criticism from the left. President George W. Bush had set up the military courts to try terrorists, but they have been challenged in court and attacked by many Democrats as unconstitutional.
On Thursday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy and Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein wrote Obama, expressing their support for civilian-court trials.
Last night the Washington Post reported that the White House is reviewing a plan that would require the Justice Department and FBI to consult with the intelligence community before deciding to inform terror suspects about their Miranda rights.
The possible move follows a controversy over the handling of the suspected Christmas Day bomber who was read his "Miranda" rights 10 hours after his arrest.