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Gitmo fallout: White House lawyer resigns; alleged 9/11 mastermind faces trial in NYC; Obama reacts

November 13, 2009 |  6:51 am

White House Counsel Greg Craig and Atty. Gen. Eric Holder

One of the first promises of the new Obama administration was to close, within one year, the Guantanamo prison, symbol of the Bush administration's terrorism policy of torture, detention and suspension of civil rights.

Today Atty. Gen. Eric Holder is set to announce that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and four others caught in the web of that fatal conspiracy will be tried in a civilian court in New York City, scene of the crime.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed Mohammed, who has long claimed responsibility for the attacks that killed 3,000 Americans was subjected to repeated waterboarding by U.S. officials, which could pose a legal complication in his case.

Holder also plans to report his decision that another group, including the accused mastermind of the 2000 attack on the U.S. warship Cole, will be tried in military tribunals, which were recently revamped by Congress.

But the decision leaves others at the Cuban prison caught in a limbo. The 215 prisoners come from 25 countries, many from Yemen, and U.S. officials fear returning them to their homes will only recycle them into the Al Qaeda network. For domestic political reasons, governors in many U.S. states are reluctant to house the prisoners in their jails.

So with prospects dimming to meet the one-year deadline, the issue claimed its first political victim today as the White House announced the resignation of counsel Greg Craig, who directed the defense of President Clinton during his impeachment trial.

Defenders insist that Craig had wanted to leave for some time. Actually, reports ABC's Jake Tapper, Craig would have preferred a job in diplomacy, but faced a hurdle in that Secretary of Sate Hillary Rodham Clinton resented Craig's public defection to the Obama camp.

Stepping in: campaign lawyer Bob Bauer, who was fierce in his strategic fervor on Obama's behalf, crashing a conference call organized by rival Clinton's campaign and going head to head against Republican John McCain's counsel.

Could that be why his wife, Anita Dunn, announced her departure as White House communications director this week? Dunn has publicly taken on Fox News, describing the network as an arm of the Republican Party. So despite what some on the right thought, maybe her exit was not a victory for Glenn Beck but a shuffling of the chairs so somebody could stay home.

Asked about all of this in Japan on the first stop of his eight-day mission to Asia, Obama said Mohammed "will be subject to the most exacting demands of justice. ... The American people insist on it, and my administration will insist on it."

-- Johanna Neuman

Photos: Top, White House Counsel Greg Craig, left, and Atty. Gen. Eric Holder at the White House on Aug. 24. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images. Bottom: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Credit: AFP/Getty Images.

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