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Thread: Key 9/11 Suspect To Be Tried In New York

  1. #1
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    Key 9/11 Suspect To Be Tried In New York

    Key 9/11 Suspect to Be Tried in New York

    Published: November 13, 2009

    WASHINGTON —Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, and four other men accused in the plot will be prosecuted in federal court in New York City, a federal law enforcement official said early on Friday.

    But the Obama administration has decided to prosecute Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri — the Guantanamo detainee accused of planning the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen — and several other detainees before a military commission, the official said.

    Both decisions are expected to be announced at the Department Justice later on Friday by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because that press conference has not yet taken place.

    Mr. Obama, asked about the decision during a news conference on his week-long trip to Asia, declined to comment directly, but said that Mr. Mohammed would face justice.

    “I’m absolutely convinced that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed will be subject to the most exacting demands of justice,” Mr. Obama said. “The American people insist on it and my administration insists on it.”

    The decision about how to try several of the most high-profile detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, marks a milestone in the administration’s efforts to close the detention facility, a policy that President Obama announced shortly after taking office but which has proven more difficult than his team anticipated.

    No detainee is being moved right away. Under a law Congress enacted earlier this year, lawmakers must be given 45 days advance notice before the executive branch moves a Guantanamo detainee onto United States soil.

    It was not immediately clear where the military commission trials would take place. The Bush administration spent tens of millions of dollars on a commissions courtroom at Guantanamo, but it has sat empty since the Obama administration froze legal proceedings there to undertake a review of how to handle the detainees.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

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    Mukasey: 'very high' risk of attack over NYC 9/11 trial

    Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey said today that it is highly likely that terrorists will attack New York City as a consequence of the Obama administration's decision to send five alleged Sept. 11 plotters there for trial in federal court.

    During a question and answer period following a speech to a conservative legal group, Mukasey was asked about the possibility that there might be an escape by one or more prisoners.

    "The [Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan] is a very secure place....Is it secure? Of course, it’s secure. They’re not going to escape," Mukasey told a conference of the Federalist Society. "The question is not whether they're going to escape. The question is whether, not only that particular facility, but the city [at] large, will then become the focus for mischief in the form of murder by adherents of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed--whether this raises the odds that it will. I would suggest to you that it raises them very high."

    Mukasey said the men now to be tried in New York should have been left before military commission proceedings at Guantanamo that were already in progress.

    "The plan seems to be to abandon the view that we’re in a war," Mukasey said. "I can’t see anything good coming out of this. I certainly can’t see anything good coming out of it very quickly. And it think it would have been far preferable to try these case in the venue that Congress created for trying and where they were about to be tried."

    Mukasey, a former federal judge who oversaw cases relating to the 1993 World Trade Center attacks, warned that a civilian court trial for the Sept. 11 plotters could produce " a cornucopia of information for those still at large and a circus for those still in custody."

    However, despite his warnings about a terrorist attack on New York, Mukasey said he thought the legal system could carry out a fair and successful trial. He also said finding impartial jurors would not be much of a problem.

    "Understand, I am a partisan of the Southern District of New York. I know of no jurisdiction where you could get people who are better prepared to deal with it, and that includes prosecutors, judges and jurors," he said. "But saying that, if you have to do it any place, that is a place to do it, is not the same as saying and should not be construed by anybody as saying that’s what I think should be done, because it isn’t."

    Mukasey portrayed the idea of civilian trials as a reckless "social experiment" that the nation was likely to regret.

    "If I thought that I or my family or my fellow citizens had three lives to live, I suppose I could be persuaded that we should live one of them as a social experiment to see whether the result here is one that we want to live with. But I don’t and they don’t and you don’t," he said. "It would take a whole lot more credulousness than I have available to be optimistic about the outcome of this latest experiment."

    At a news conference this morning announcing the administration's decision, Attorney General Eric Holder disputed claims that having a 9/11-related trial in New York would endanger New Yorkers.

    " New York has a long history of trying these kinds of cases," Holder said. "New York has a hardened system. We have talked to the Marshal Service there. An analysis was done about the capabilities that exist in New York, and I'm quite confident that we can safely hold people there, that we can protect the people who surround the courthouse area, and bring these cases successfully. So I don't think that that criticism is factually based."
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

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    New York trial for 9/11 suspects poses legal, political risks

    By Muriel Kane
    Friday, November 13th, 2009 -- 8:58 pm

    The announcement on Friday that the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other alleged September 11 conspirators will be held just blocks from the former site of the Twin Towers has quickly given rise to complications.

    One factor is the angry reception they are bound to receive in New York. "Hang them," a construction worker near the "ground zero' site told AFP. "Put them in a bird cage and hang it in the middle of Times Square," another man suggested.

    A man who works in the area agreed that "It's the way it should have been from the beginning. This is where the crime happened," but was also concerned about "how they'll handle security."

    The trial also poses legal and political risks for the Obama administration. As the Associated Press points out, "The case is likely to force the civilian federal court to confront a host of difficult issues, including rough treatment of detainees, sensitive intelligence gathering and the potential spectacle of defiant terrorists disrupting proceedings. U.S. civilian courts prohibit evidence obtained through coercion, and a number of detainees were questioned using harsh methods some call torture."

    Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has already objected that holding a trial in the United States "puts Americans unnecessarily at risk," and former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey complained that "the plan seems to be to abandon the view that we are at war" and warned that the trial could turn into a circus.

    Attorney General Eric Holder insists, however, that there is enough untainted evidence to provide a solid case against the defendants. In addition, according to the AP, "the Justice Department, where Holder has spent most of his career, has long wanted to reassert the ability of federal courts to handle terrorism cases."

    Although Holder appears confident in these five initial cases, evidence to try other Guantanamo detainees may be lacking. According to ProPublica, "Most of the remaining detainees are considered too difficult to prosecute, mostly because the evidence against them is thin or based on statements obtained through coercion." As a result, "federal and military prosecutors are racing each other to strike plea deals with at least a dozen additional Guantanamo detainees whose testimony could be used against some of the most notorious prisoners."

    ProPublica describes this competition between the federal and military systems as reaching unseemly levels. "One defense attorney, who represents a high-value detainee held by the CIA in secret detention and then sent to Guantanamo, witnessed days of fighting between military and federal prosecutors over who had control of the case. 'We asked a simple procedural question and ended up bystanders to days of turf battles,' the attorney said."

    It appears, for example, that Omar Khadr, the young Canadian who was captured in Afghanistan when he was only 15, will stand trial before a military tribunal. "We thought that the incoming Obama administration signalled a new day with respect to these cases," Khadr's lawyer charged. “I had thought this administration was better than that."

    Officials told ProPublica that there may be winnable cases against 40 more detainees, but another 30 may never face former charges. "The government is fishing in very shallow water," one defense attorney said with reference to the remaining detainees. As a result, some detainees may eventually be released even without agreement from all intelligence agencies.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

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    Is the Case Against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Strong Enough?

    By MASSIMO CALABRESI / WASHINGTON Massimo Calabresi / Washington – Fri Nov 13, 3:25 pm ET

    There are hard legal cases, and there are high-profile legal cases, but the prosecution of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed may turn out to be one of the hardest high-profile cases ever. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Friday that Mohammed, the confessed architect of the Sept. 11 attacks who was waterboarded 183 times in U.S. custody in March 2003, will be put on trial in the Southern District of New York along with four other Sept. 11 plotters. Between the imperative of bringing an alleged mass murderer to justice and the challenge of overcoming evidence tainted by torture, the case will be messy, politically charged - and closely watched by the entire country.

    The job of delivering a conviction will fall to the newly appointed U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, Preet Bharara. Previously an assistant attorney in the Southern District prosecuting the Mob, Bharara made his name as the Senate staffer who helped drive Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez from office by uncovering and investigating the Bush Administration's firing of prosecutors for allegedly political purposes. (See pictures of Osama bin Laden.)

    Bharara will have to make the case under very unusual circumstances. "The challenge for prosecutors is to try and present a case that is not tainted by evidence that is inadmissible," says Joshua Dratel, a criminal lawyer in New York who has appealed cases against terrorists on the basis of torture allegations. Holder testified at his Senate-confirmation hearings earlier this year that he believes waterboarding is torture, and any evidence obtained after Mohammed's waterboarding will likely be inadmissible.

    That means the government will likely have to rely on evidence that predates the 2003 waterboarding, as well as Mohammed's 2002 statement to al-Jazeera in which he took credit for the attack. Holder said at his press conference announcing the trials Friday that he has seen evidence previously unavailable that made him confident the prosecution will be successful. "If the government's going to prosecute Mohammed for 9/11, it will have diligently and thoroughly scrubbed the evidence to obtain certainty" that it can make the case, says David Laufman, a Bush Administration prosecutor in the Eastern District of Virginia, who tried and won cases against al-Qaeda members charged in terrorist plots.

    But even if the government can make a strong case without the tainted evidence, Mohammed's treatment could cause problems. It's possible - though not likely - that a court could rule that the government doesn't have the right to prosecute someone who has been severely abused in custody. (Previously, suspects have been released even when their abuse didn't prejudice evidence against them, but there's no clear precedent for terrorism cases.) Other issues likely to be raised by the defense, says Dratel, are finding a jury that can be considered impartial, especially blocks from the World Trade Center site, and whether Mohammed's rights to a speedy trial have been violated. (See pictures of Pakistan's vulnerable North-West Frontier Province.)

    Bharara will not be alone on the case. Holder jointly assigned it to him and Neil McBride, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. The Justice Department says the two men work well together, but not everyone agrees. "That's going to be ugly," says a former prosecutor who knows both men. The former prosecutor predicts that the Southern District will "run the show" because of its knowledge of the judges in New York, the proximity to the trial and the resources the office will be able to bring to bear.

    Some Republicans and family members of the victims argue that the spectacle of trying Mohammed in federal court, instead of trying him before military commissions or simply holding the suspects indefinitely, risks endangering New Yorkers, exposing classified material and giving the plotters a platform to make themselves martyrs. "These terrorists planned and executed the mass murder of thousands of innocent Americans," Senator John Cornyn of Texas said Friday. "Treating them like common criminals is unconscionable."

    The dispute over whether to try Mohammed in criminal court may not be resolved until a verdict is reached, but the debate is already raging. Says Dratel: "It's a victory for our system of justice and for the rule of law." Others disagree but think Bharara will succeed. "It's a dubious decision to send the case to federal court to be criminally prosecuted," says former top Bush White House lawyer William Burck, who worked with Bharara in the Southern District. "But if there's anyone who can pull it off, it's Preet Bharara."
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

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    Families of 9/11 Victims Divided Over Detainee Trial Plan,2933,575110,00.html

    Saturday, November 14, 2009

    Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement to bring Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to trial at a New York City courthouse was received by families of Sept. 11 victims with mixed reaction Friday.

    Many of the relatives expressed opposition to any civilian trial for terror suspects — especially at the federal courthouse 1,000 yards from the spot where nearly 3,000 people died.

    Some called the decision a terrible mistake, while others said the trial would give the men a platform to "spew" their anti-American hatred and invective.

    Ed Kowalski, of the 9/11 Families for a Secure America Foundation, said: "To allow a terrorist and a war criminal the opportunity of having U.S. constitutional protections is a wrong thing to do and it’s never been done before. President Obama is wrong to do this."

    "If we have to bring them to the United States, New York City is not the place to have it, let alone in a courthouse that is in the shadows of the twin towers," Lee Ielpi, whose firefighter son died in the 9/11 attacks, said. The city's wounds, he said, are simply still too raw.

    "Ripping that scab open will create a tremendous hardship," he said.

    "We have a president who doesn't know we're at war," said Debra Burlingame, whose brother, Charles Burlingame, had been the pilot of the hijacked plane that crashed into the Pentagon. She said she was sickened by "the prospect of these barbarians being turned into victims by their attorneys."

    But Lorie Van Auken, whose husband Kenneth was killed in the World Trade Center attacks, voiced support for the decision, saying the trials would help to bring closure.

    "I'm glad to hear they are going to be brought to New York to the scene of the crime and giving the families that were affected the chance to actually watch the trial," Van Auken told Reuters.

    Valerie Lucznikowska, whose nephew died at the World Trade Center, said she would not care if the suspects sounded off in court, so long as the victims' families got to see them put on trial.

    "What are words? It was a horrible thing to have 3,000 people killed," she said.

    Trying the men in civilian court is a risky move and is likely to confront a host of difficult issues, including rough treatment of detainees, sensitive intelligence gathering and the potential spectacle of defiant terrorists disrupting proceedings.

    U.S. civilian courts prohibit evidence obtained through coercion, and a number of detainees were questioned using harsh methods some call torture.

    Holder insisted both the court system and the untainted evidence against the five men are strong enough to deliver a guilty verdict and the penalty he expects to seek: a death sentence for the deaths of nearly 3,000 people who were killed when four hijacked jetliners slammed into the towers, the Pentagon, and a field in western Pennsylvania.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

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    What Happens If a 9/11 Terrorist Defendant is Found Not Guilty?

    November 15, 2009 4:08 AM

    "I am absolutely convinced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be subject to the most exacting demands of justice," President Obama said in Tokyo. "The American people will insist on it and my administration will insist on it."

    But what happens if KSM or any of the other 9/11 defendants the Obama administration is bringing to New York for criminal prosecutions -- including Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Walid bin Attash, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi -- are somehow found not guilty?

    Attorney General Eric Holder brushed off the question, saying, "I would not have authorized the bringing of these prosecutions unless I thought that the outcome -- in the outcome we would ultimately be successful. I will say that I have access to information that has not been publicly released that gives me great confidence that we will be successful in the prosecution of these cases in federal court."

    Not everyone is so confident, of course. KSM, for instance, was subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques" that many consider torture. This includes being waterboarded 183 times in a one month. Could this undermine the case against him?

    Fears of giving KSM the rights afforded defendants in a criminal case have led some to conclude that a military tribunal might be a better venue for him.

    In September 2006, debating the Military Commissions Act, then-Sen. Obama said KSM and those like him would get "basically a full military trial with all the bells and whistles. He's going to have counsel, he's going to be able to present evidence, he's going to be able to rebut the government's case. Because the feeling is that he's guilty of a war crime and to do otherwise might violate some of our agreements under the Geneva Conventions."

    "I think that's good that we're going to provide him with some procedure and process," then-Sen. Obama said. "I think we will convict him and I think he will be brought to justice. I think justice will be carried out in his case."

    But when Holder announced on Friday that five defendants would face military tribunals, KSM was not among them.

    In June, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian national, was brought to the Metropolitan Correctional Center to face 286 separate criminal charges stemming from his alleged role in the Aug. 7, 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya, including conspiring with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda to kill Americans, and a separate charges of murder for each of the 224 people killed embassy bombings.

    We asked White House press secretary Robert Gibbs what would happen if Ghailani is found not guilty?

    Gibbs wouldn't bite but the question is important. If he will be freed, that prompts questions of national security and whether civilian courts are as appropriate as other venues for such trials. If he won't be freed despite being found not guilty that undermines the credibility of the trial.

    "We will talk about what happens about a verdict when a verdict comes," Gibbs said.

    The following day, the Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, asked “if we’re going to treat this terrorist detainee as a common civilian criminal, what will happen to Ghailani if he’s found not guilty? And what will happen to other detainees the administration wants to try in civilian courts if they are found not guilty? Will they be released? If so, where? In New York? In American communities? Or will they be released overseas, where they could return to terror and target American soldiers or innocent civilians?”

    McConnell continued: “If Ghailani isn’t allowed to go free, will he be detained by the government? If so, where will he be detained? Would the administration detain him on U.S. soil, despite the objections of Congress and the American people?”

    McConnell said the questions about Ghailani resemble the questions about Guantanamo in general.

    “On the question of Guantanamo, it became increasingly clear over time that the administration announced its plan to close the facility before it actually had a plan,” he said. “If the administration has a plan for holding Ghailani if he’s found not guilty, then it needs to share that plan with the Congress. These kinds of questions are not insignificant. They involve the safety of the American people.”
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

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    Navy lawyer: Defending 9/11 suspects a patriotic duty

    By Agence France-Presse
    Sunday, November 15th, 2009 -- 8:32 pm

    "It's perfectly patriotic," said US Navy Commander Suzanne Lachelier, a military attorney appointed to represent one of the accused September 11 plotters.

    She is one of only a handful of Americans who work to defend those who committed the horrific attacks in 2001 that killed nearly 3,000 people in the United States.

    "Defending the US Constitution, that's what we do as prosecutors, but also as lawyers for the defense," this young dynamic woman told AFP.

    "It's about presenting the rights of the accused -- it's not at all about the facts."

    Lachelier was appointed to represent Ramzi Binalshibh, a Yemeni citizen -- and one-time roommate of suspected 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta -- whom she says suffers from severe mental problems.

    President Barack Obama's administration announced Friday that Binalshibh and four other alleged co-plotters of the worst ever attacks on US soil, including self-proclaimed mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, would be tried in US federal court in New York city, just steps away from the scene of their crime.

    "It's historic. There are a lot of things that you don't normally deal with in a regular criminal case," said Michael Acuff, who helps Sheikh Mohammed -- known as KSM -- represent himself.

    "A regular criminal case isn't affected by new laws that are changing in the middle of the case or by... political concerns at the national level like these cases are, and it is not affected by the types of things that our government has said happened to Mr Mohammed."

    As military reservists, the two lawyers joined in early 2008 the defense team set up by the Pentagon to assist Guantanamo Bay detainees facing trial before military commissions -- special tribunals established by Obama's predecessor George W. Bush.

    Mohammed and his co-defendants spent years in secret CIA prisons where they were subjected to other interrogation methods, such as sleep deprivation, incessant loud music, and being forced to stand for long hours in uncomfortable positions.

    In announcing the administration's decision, Attorney General Eric Holder vowed the co-conspirators would stand trial "before an impartial jury" and said he expected to push for the death penalty.

    The five are currently held at Guantanamo, the US naval base in southern Cuba where they have already been charged with murder under the much-criticized military commissions system.

    After spending years in secret CIA prisons undergoing harsh interrogation techniques that some say amount to torture, the alleged plotters gave these uniformed lawyers a rather cool reception.

    "These cases make you think about your own philosophy about justice. They make you think about your own religious beliefs," noted Acuff.

    "There are things in these cases that make you evaluate yourself and your country and obviously a normal case does not often do that."

    Sheikh Mohammed, a Pakistani, was waterboarded -- subjected to simulated drowning -- 183 times during his years in US custody.

    The evidence US agents obtained from the accused under coercion has raised serious questions about how they could be convicted in any regular US court of law.

    Acuff, a veteran lawyer in his fifties, does not hide how much his client holds him in low esteem. At their very first hearing in June 2008, Sheikh Mohammed and his fellow defendants demanded to be rid of their court-appointed American lawyers.

    Two of them, including Binalshibh, were not granted their request. And military commissions rules require that all defendants be assigned a military lawyer; those who represent themselves receive a stand-by counsel.

    For Adam Thurschwell, a civilian defense lawyer specializing in death penalty matters, the military commissions system "was so grotesquely unfair" that he could not resist a chance to "make a contribution to the fairness of a capital case."

    "Nobody's in favor of terrorism," he stressed.

    But "a good defense lawyer wants to get his client a fair trial. That's very difficult to do and harder the more infamous the defendant is."

    That position remains true for these attorneys even after long hours and countless pages of legal challenges to the system as a whole, an appearance before the Supreme Court and only three completed trials.

    "For a penal lawyer, the most important thing is to personalize, to humanize a client hated by everyone," Lachelier said.

    Pointing to her client's legal troubles -- he has been treated with psychotropic drugs at Guantanamo -- she hopes to convince a jury of angry New Yorkers to "not exaggerate his role" in the plot that led to the September 11 attacks.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

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    Giuliani furious about 9/11 trial decision

    Posted: 4:11 AM, November 16, 2009

    Stop coddling the 9/11 killers -- the war on terror is far from over, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani fumed yesterday.

    The decision by the Obama administration to put the self-proclaimed mastermind of the terror attacks and four accomplices on trial in New York is pure politics, Giuliani charged in interviews yesterday on Fox News and CNN.

    The decision, he said, proclaims, "both in substance and reality, the war on terror, in their point of view, is over."

    "There seems to be an over-concern with the rights of terrorists and a lack of concern with the rights of the public."

    He noted that terror chief Khalid Sheik Mohammed "asked to be brought to New York" when he was first arrested.

    "I didn't think we were in the business of granting the requests of terrorists."

    The Democratic administration's plan to try Mohammed and his accused co-conspirators in federal criminal trials in New York is a shift from the Republican Bush administration's anti-terror strategy -- which created military tribunals for all suspects held at Guantanamo Bay.

    The Obama administration plans to close Guantanamo.

    The five suspects have been accused of conspiring to finance, train and direct the 19 hijackers who seized four airliners used in the attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000 people.

    Their trial here, Giuliani said, would be a waste of "millions and millions of dollars."

    "Anyone that tells you this doesn't create additional security problems, of course, isn't telling you the truth," he said.

    Other Republicans echoed similar concerns in interviews on CBS, Fox and CNN.

    "They [the terrorists] are going to do everything they can to disrupt it and make it a circus and allow them to use it as a platform to push their ideology," said Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House intelligence committee.

    But White House senior adviser David Axelrod shot back, "We believe that these folks should be tried in New York City . . . near where their heinous acts were conducted, in full view, in our court system."

    He also reiterated the White House intention to close Guantanamo. "We are going to get it done," he said.

    Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on NBC's "Meet The Press" that "I want to see them brought to justice. The most important thing for me is that, you know, they pay the ultimate price for what they did to us on 9/11."

    Mayor Bloomberg applauded the decision.

    He said he had "great confidence" that the NYPD and feds would "handle security expertly."

    Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, whose district includes Ground Zero, said, "Would I prefer it elsewhere? Probably, but you know at this point it's here, and let's just make sure that we get the security and the resources that we need."

    The administration has to give Congress 45 days' notice of its intent to transfer Guantanamo detainees from military to civilian lockups.

    As the trial nears -- proceedings aren't expected to start for at least two years -- the detainees will sit it out at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan, where a special unit is set aside for terror suspects.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

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    Plans to try 9/11 suspect in NYC draw fire

    By Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY

    WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder had just announced that accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged accomplices would stand trial in New York when the blistering critiques erupted.

    "Unconscionable," declared Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. "Dangerous," said former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. "An unnecessary risk," said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. Democrat Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia called Friday's decision to move Mohammed from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, misguided, saying war criminals "do not belong in our courts."

    Legal analysts describe the decision to try Mohammed in a civilian federal court as a high-stakes gamble by President Obama. They say the enormous legal challenges will test his administration's counterterrorism strategy and the strength of the U.S. criminal justice system.

    "I can't think of another case with so much riding on it," says Ron Woods, a former federal prosecutor who represented convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols.

    Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says the prosecution can demonstrate the "power" of the U.S. justice system. "We have a judicial system that is the envy of the world," Leahy told CBS' Face the Nation. "Let's show the world that we can use that power."

    For Obama, the decision marks a crucial step toward fulfilling his campaign pledge to close the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, a stark reversal of Bush administration policy.

    "The president believes it is important to get it done and to end this chapter in our history," senior Obama adviser David Axelrod said Sunday on CNN's State of the Union.

    Mohammed, the most senior al-Qaeda operative in U.S. custody, now becomes the face of that effort. Although Holder says he is "confident" in the evidence, the path to a successful prosecution is littered with legal challenges:
    • How will prosecutors win a case that may be damaged by interrogators who subjected Mohammed to waterboarding, which simulates drowning, after his 2003 capture?
    • Can the U.S. court system stage an open trial in a case based on so much classified evidence?
    • Will the case stay in New York, where defense lawyers will likely question whether impartial jurors can be found?

    "We're plowing new ground here," says University of Wisconsin law professor Frank Tuerkheimer, a former U.S. prosecutor.

    'A major problem'

    The harsh interrogation methods used against Mohammed are the greatest threat to the prosecution, legal analysts say.

    Within a month after his capture in March 2003, CIA officers waterboarded the top al-Qaeda operative 183 times, according to government documents made public this year.

    "If I were defense counsel, I would feel fairly confident that I could get a substantial amount of (evidence) excluded," says John Gibbons, a former chief U.S. appeals court judge who supports Holder's decision. "It will likely be a major problem."

    Holder suggested last week that he expected defense lawyers to raise the issue of torture. He said he is confident in the strength of the case, which he said features evidence not yet publicly known.

    "I can't believe that (prosecutors) would bring a case like this in federal court, if they were relying on evidence that a court might not admit," says Jamie Gorelick, a deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration and 9/11 Commission member.

    The intelligence argument
    Among the most compelling arguments against moving Mohammed and the other 9/11 plotters to civilian court, Kyl says, is that the government could be forced to give up valuable intelligence sources and methods used to gather evidence against the al-Qaeda operatives.

    Kyl says the 1995 trial of Omar Abdel Rahman, also known as the "Blind Sheik," provided al-Qaeda with "valuable information" about U.S. intelligence operations, "making the job of fighting terrorists tougher." Rahman, convicted in a plot to blow up New York landmarks, was sentenced to life in prison.

    Tuerkheimer says any potential loss of intelligence would likely be minimal because of the years that have elapsed between Mohammed's 2003 arrest and any future trial date.

    "By the time his case comes to trial, the whole intelligence system will have been rebuilt," Tuerkheimer says.

    A trial at Ground Zero
    By choosing New York City as the site of the trial, Holder has invited a legal challenge to move it from the shadow of the 9/11 attacks, analysts say.

    "I would think that this case would have to be moved out of New York just to give some semblance of a fair trial," Woods says. In 1997, the bombing prosecutions of Timothy McVeigh and Nichols were moved from the federal courthouse in Oklahoma City, which was damaged in the attack, to Denver. McVeigh was convicted and executed. Nichols is serving life in prison.

    In New York, the federal courthouse is about 20 blocks from where the World Trade Center once stood.

    On ABC's This Week, Giuliani said Sunday the high-profile trial "creates an extra risk" to the city.

    Woods says a trial could attract threats from al-Qaeda or its sympathizers. "Are you going to have to guard the judge for the rest of his life?" he asks.

    Yet Gorelick says New York has "ample experience" dealing with terrorism cases. "I think it is fitting that these suspects are going to be tried in New York," she says. "We have to be able to try cases someplace, why not New York?"
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

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    Jan 2005
    Giuliani, Clinton Split On Mohammed NYC Trial


    The former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, says putting suspected Sept. 11 terrorists on trial in New York City places residents there at unnecessary risk.

    Giuliani tells CNN's "State of the Union" that a more appropriate choice would be military tribunals for the terror suspects. He says that option recognizes that the U.S. is at war with Islamic terrorists.

    Giuliani was mayor of New York when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

    Attorney General Eric Holder says he decided to bring the suspects to trial in New York because of the nature of the undisclosed evidence against them, because the 9/11 victims were mostly civilians, and because the attacks took place on U.S. soil.

    Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, however, says she has no problem with Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to try in New York City five alleged terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks.

    A former senator from New York, Clinton tells NBC's "Meet the Press" that she understands that trials will be a painful experience for the families of those who died.

    Holder says he plans to bring the professed mastermind of the attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and four others detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to trial in a courtroom near the site of the World Trade Center.

    Clinton says she thinks it's important to note that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other officials believe that holding the trials in the city is appropriate.

    New Yorkers are taking sides over the terror trial for the accused mastermind of the September 11 attacks. "I think it's a logistical and security nightmare for the American People," Alice Hoagland, mother of a 9/11 victim, said.

    Hoagland's son was a passenger on United Flight 93 when terrorists crashed it into a Pennsylvania field on that tragic day. Hoagland worries that bringing the self-proclaimed mastermind of the attacks, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, and his accomplices to New York would make the city an even bigger target – and some security experts agree.

    "Keeping the courthouse secure, keeping downtown secure, we've got the manpower to do that, but what we worry about is suicide bombers, something that could attract other terrorists like the ones that are being tried," Robert Strang, of Investigative Management Group, said.

    Police Commissioner Ray Kelly says the NYPD is fully prepared.

    "We've handled high profile events, certainly high profile trials in the past, and we'll be able to do it," Kelly said.

    "I am pleased that they're moving these trials to New York near the scene of the crime, giving the families that were most affected [the opportunity] to see the trials," Lorie Van Auken, wife of a 9/11 victim, said.

    Van Auken lost her husband, Kenneth, on September 11, and she says she'll be in the federal courtroom in New york for the terror trial.

    She says the military court proceedings in Guantanamo Bay were not open enough.

    "It would be very assuring to me and a lot of others to see the American system of justice work," Van Auken said.

    Some relatives fear the suspects could be freed on a technicality, that a defense attorney could challenge Mohammed's confession to planning the attacks. The government admitted to using water-boarding interrogation techniques on him 183 times in 2003.

    "But ultimately, the administration would not have put these five individuals into the federal system, I think, if they weren't convinced they could get a conviction," CBS News security consultant Juan Zarate said.

    Defense lawyers could argue that Khalid Sheik Mohammed's six years in detention have already violated his right to a fair trial. They could also challenge if it's possible to get an impartial jury in New York, where nearly 3,000 people were killed on September 11.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

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