Top administration officials are getting nervous that they may not be able to proceed with one of their most controversial national-security moves: trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other accused 9/11 conspirators in federal court in New York City. Last November Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. portrayed the trial as a way to showcase the American justice system to the world—and to accelerate President Obama's stalled plans to shut down the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay. But because of shifting political winds in Congress, the trial is now "potentially in jeopardy," a senior official, who did not want to be named talking about a sensitive situation, tells NEWSWEEK. The chief concern: that Republicans will renew attempts to strip funding for the trial and, in the aftermath of the bombing attempt aboard Northwest Flight 253, pick up enough support from moderate Democrats to prevail. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham says he will force another vote on his amendment to stop the trial (which was defeated 54-45 in November) once Congress reconvenes. "With Detroit and everything else going on, we've got a pretty good chance of winning this thing," says Graham, adding that he's privately heard from a number of Democrats, saying "they're with me." GOP Rep. Frank Wolf says he plans a similar move in the House. "I'm afraid it's probably going to pass," says Democratic Rep. Jim Moran, who has strongly backed the administration on the issue.It sounds like a no-brainer vote, but of course, we're talking about Democrats here. It will be interesting to see how Democrats up for reelection this year vote on this issue. Their opponents will be sure to bring up their votes on whether or not to bring KSM to New York City. Do they really want to be on record supporting one of Obama's most unpopular decisions? Perhaps they can force this administration to have a more rational approach to terrorism in spite of themselves.
Another big factor? The price tag. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently sent a letter to the White House budget office seeking more than $216 million to provide security for the trial this year—and more than $200 million for each year after that. The figures have prompted some critics to say that, given the years a complex conspiracy case could take, the final cost could approach $1 billion. (The U.S. Marshals Service has briefed congressional staff members on a separate request for an extra $118 million for surveillance aircraft and armored vehicles to guard against terror attacks. White House budget officials, however, knocked the figure down to $40 million.)
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Jennifer Rubin points to this Michael Isikoff article that indicates some roadblocks to the administration's plan to bring Khalid Sheikh Muhammed to New York City to try in criminal court there.