February 12th, 2010
04:55 PM ET
12 years ago

White House takes larger role in deciding where to try 9/11 mastermind

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/12/art.holder.file.gi.jpg caption="The White House decision to become more involved represents a setback for Attorney General Eric Holder."]Washington (CNN) - The Obama administration Friday acknowledged the White House is taking steps to rescue the Justice Department's troubled effort to find a home for the trial of the accused 9/11 conspirators.

The move represents a setback for Attorney General Eric Holder, who had spearheaded the decision to try self-admitted 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian court near the site of the attack on the Twin Towers.

Holder has made an issue of establishing Justice Department independence from interference by political influences.

However, with opposition to the November decision mounting in Congress and in New York City, the White House has stepped in, citing a political dimension that takes the issue beyond the legal considerations that guided Holder.

"Because Congress has become involved in this, because legislation could restrict the venue, and the type of trial, the White House is more involved, yes," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is leading an effort to block funding for a civilian trial in the United States, in favor of placing the defendants before a military commission.

In an interview with the Washington Post on Thursday, Holder said he still strongly prefers a civilian trial but appeared to open the door slightly to a military alternative.

"If for whatever reason it ended up as a military commission trial, given the reformed status of those military commissions, I think that we could have a trial that would stand up to the test that I was talking about before in terms of transparency, adherence to the traditions that we have as a nation," Holder said.

Gibbs told reporters Friday the comments do not represent a softening of the administration's position on a military trial, and insisted President Barack Obama has still not ruled out a civilian trial in New York, despite the local opposition.

"I think he (Obama) will have strong equities in this decision and will hear from a lot of different people," Gibbs said. "We're going to take into account security and logistical concerns that those individuals now have. The cost of the trial, obviously, is one thing."

Administration officials said they did not know when a decision would be made on a venue for the trial.

soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    Holder needs to say "No!" to those right wingnuts who do not believe in our justice system.

    February 12, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  2. jeff

    I dont understand why we are doing this. Can the President just let the people who mean to do us harm be tried by the military why spend the time and money of protecting them, to make him look like he is tough on terrorism... WELL HE IS NOT

    February 12, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  3. Mickey

    Try them right here in NYC! If our justice system was good enough to try previous "terrorists", it's STILL good enough. No more whining from those domestic terrorist Republicans...it was good enough for G.W. Bush, or did your "slective amnesia" kick in again?

    Try them HERE, and try them NOW!

    February 12, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  4. D.U.T.C.H.

    Try him on Riker's Island or on Governor's Island. But make sure the trial is in New York. Me being a native New Yorker want him tried in the city where I know he will be found guilty and sentenced to death. Then I want to see him executed in the crater where the Twin Towers once stood.

    February 12, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  5. ThinkAgain

    During the GW Bush Administration, over 300 terrorists were convicted in civilian court. There's absolutely no reason for this precedent to change.

    All that HAS changed is the GOP's relentless efforts to try to make our president and our country fail by saying “NO” and obstructing everything President Obama tries to do to clean up the mess the Republicans left us. Since all of the GOP's policies are proven failures, all Republicans have to offer Americans is fear, division and hate.

    Folks, it's time to grow a pair and stand up to not only the Republicans and their efforts to undermine our judicial system, it's time to stand up to the terrorists and show them that the freedom, democracy and rule of law they tried to destroy on 9/11 is alive and well and flourishing!

    February 12, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  6. Obama mama

    Holder needs to be fired. He has not only said stupid things throughout the first year (racist-based 'Americans are cowards' comment), but made incredible idiotic decisions with terror suspects (more freedoms) and accusing, threatening investigation of those that keep us safe (CIA).

    This White House stinks.

    February 12, 2010 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  7. Hows that Toyota workin for ya?

    How about Rush Limbaughs backyard.Hes the biggest spineless coward there is that ever got a deferment.

    February 12, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  8. File under "Sarcasm"

    Come on Gibbs, I'm sure you can blame this on Bush so you don't have to throw Holder under the bus.

    February 12, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  9. Stop taking my taxes

    It is almost funny how much of a total disaster Owhiner and the democants are! God I cant wait to November this socialism thing was fun while it lasted.

    February 12, 2010 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  10. Duck Fallas

    What in the world are you righties so afraid of? You cowards are making America look like a bunch of frightened children. Grow a backbone, for fox sake. Have a little faith in your country.

    February 12, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  11. If You Want Something Ruined Let a Democratic Community Organizer Run It

    If Obama the Logo President insistson a pro-terrorist show trial in NY, all funding for the $1 billion in funding for security should be paid for by the supporters of the ACLU, ACORN, and registered democrats nationwide. Heck, let Hollywood through a telethon, Bono, Springsteen, and Sarandon can headline.

    Everyone I know was quite content to let these terrorist scum to rot in Gitmo.

    February 12, 2010 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  12. OldSchoolGuy

    How can a non-citizen, international war terrorist be worthy of a US civilian trial with its attendant rights? Why is there any discussion that it might not be a military trial? The whole thing must have terrorists around the world chuckling, and it must surely abate any fears that they might have of getting caught doing their unthinkable deeds against so many innocent civilians. The likelihood of some technicality that would result in a mistrial for this self-proclaimed mass murderer is high. Is there any fairness to US citizens in this?

    February 12, 2010 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  13. NVa Native

    Show the world (and the tea-baggers) we are not afraid – have the trials in NYC!

    February 12, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  14. southerncousin

    Libs wonder why they are losing the elections and the respect, read some of the stupid comments from them in here. I am a former democrat and want my party back from these whackos that the unions and George Soros put in office.

    February 12, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  15. terry,va.

    Obummie have you read the polls while you were hiding under your desk in a state of denial? You haven't lead on anything. When someone in your administration gets some sense and grows a spine maybe they will put it on a teleprompter for you to read.

    February 12, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  16. Captain Awesome

    This administration has no convictions whatsoever. They need to pick a position and go with it. Now, they just sound wishy washy. I thought they were all intent on trying KSM in a civilian court in New York because Obama wanted to make the world (and the terrorists) like us again? Obama better check with the French the next time he changes his mind on this.

    February 12, 2010 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  17. Hammerer

    Take the trials to San Francisco the home of the left. They want public hearings and trials so take it to them. Nancy is an expert on national security so she can provide the security. CA has the money so they can pay and the terroist can move in and out of the country easier.

    February 12, 2010 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  18. Mark

    Holder needs to be fired, his law firm donated millions of dollars worth of legal services.........to the terrorists held in Gitmo.

    February 12, 2010 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  19. joe m

    i guess mr. holder does not care what the residents and state leaders of NY think about this idea, nor does he care about what americans in general think about the matter. he apparently seems unconcerned about the cost either. if mr. holder and other who, like him, believe this to be the correct course to take, i'd be willing to let them have their way, IF they will pay for all the cost from their own pockets, provide all the manpower needed, and pay for any lost income that bussiness in the area may suffer due to these proceedings. talk about tone deaf.

    February 12, 2010 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  20. Ain't life strange?

    @if you want anything ruined...

    Did you finish high school? Or, are you just pretending? Bush incarcerated anyone who even resembled a Muslim. They are not all terrorists. No one has proven that, because no one has presented any evidence. Stop drinking the Budwiser and start reading the facts.

    February 12, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  21. Jim

    God the Republicans are wimps. They don't seem to think much of our institutions and they are afraid of these "terrorists". You scratch the macho surface of a Republican and you can see they are just a bunch of cowardly cry babies. What happend to "Bring it on?" Does that only count for our kids who are in Iraq?

    February 12, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  22. Marc

    So it (the US Judicial system) was good for terrorists when Roosevelt was in power, when Bush was in power and so on...
    But now that Obama is in power is no longer good enough?

    February 12, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  23. Aunt Bea and Opie

    Holder never got the biggest criminal,Cheney,hes still hiding in his bunker cave.hahaha

    February 12, 2010 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  24. Sadie

    Democrats and Republicans need to back off and let the Attorney General do his job........Bush tried terroist in civilian court, where was your OUT CRY then?.......there is 9 months yet before November and for all you Right wingers who think you are going to take over the Congress......think again......it only takes a few more NO NO NO's from your Representatives in DC to sink you into a deeper hole.....mean while if the unemployment continues to climb a little each month and the economy continues to pick up just a little each month......then we will definately not vote any of your NAY SAYERS into office....and Obama's rating will be way up there again........just sit back and watch.....

    February 12, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  25. Mike

    Obama and Gibbs both have said 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is guilty. Could you really find an impartial jury?

    February 12, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
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