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Pressure mounts to stop 9/11 terrorism trials in New York

Police officers outside the U.S. District Court in New York, where the Obama administration wants to try 9:11 terror attack architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

From the beginning, conservatives denounced Atty. Gen. Eric Holder's plan to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and other suspects in a civilian court in New York City. If the trial happens, said former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, "the terrorists win."

The Senate voiced its concern too. In a letter to Holder, a bipartisan group of senators --South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman, Arizona Republican John McCain, Arkansas Democrat Blanche Lincoln, Maine Republican Susan Collins and Virginia Democrat Jim Webb -- urged him to reconsider. The letter said, “You will be providing them one of the most visible platforms in the world to exalt their past acts and to rally others in support of further terrorism.”

Perhaps the biggest push-back to the idea of civilian trials for the terrorist suspects is coming from New York. “I believe it would destroy the economy in Lower Manhattan,” said Steve Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York. After a unanimous vote by a Lower Manhattan community board urging that the trial be held elsewhere, Mayor Michael Bloomberg this week came out against a New York trial.

It’s going to cost an awful lot of money and disturb an awful lot of people,” Bloomberg said Wednesday. “My hope is that the attorney general and the president decide to change their mind.“

Now, efforts are underway in Congress to block funding for anything related to the trials, House Minority Leader John Boehner said Wednesday that the Obama administration doesn't have the votes in Congress  to spend $500 million to refurbish the Thompson prison in Illinois so Guantanamo Bay detainees could be held there while awaiting trial in New York. 

"There is not going to be a trial in New York, I guarantee it," he told Fox News. "There is no appetite for the trials in Congress."

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Police officers outside the U.S. District Court in New York, where the Obama administration wants to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Credit: Reuters

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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