Bloomberg Disagrees With Biden's Assessment of 9/11 Trial Costs

The city has refused to release a detailed accounting of what the total cost includes

Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010  |  Updated 6:00 PM EDT
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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended his claim that it would cost $200 million per year to secure the city during a trial of Sept. 11 suspects in Manhattan, after Vice President Joe Biden questioned the figure.

Bloomberg said Tuesday that the city's estimate is "reasonable" and said no one in the Obama administration questioned it until now. He said city officials have discussed the figures with officials in the White House budget office as well as the Justice Department.

In an interview Sunday on the CBS program "Face the Nation," Biden said, "The mayor came along and said the cost for providing security to hold this trial is X hundreds of millions of dollars, which I think is much more than would be needed.''

Bloomberg said the estimates are "based on many years of experience and knowing what the costs are in a big city of deploying the greatest police department in the world.''

The city has refused to release a detailed accounting of what the total cost includes.

Bloomberg initially supported the Obama administration's decision to try the Sept. 11 suspects in a federal courthouse in lower Manhattan.  But he recently changed his mind and has been lobbying against it, citing the cost and disruption to life downtown.

Biden said Sunday that Obama is waiting for a recommendation from the attorney general to see whether there are other options.

In an interview published Monday in The New York Times, Attorney General Eric Holder said, "I have to be more forceful in advocating for why I believe these are trials that should be held on the civilian side."

However, Holder did not rule out a military trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, saying, "You have to be flexible."

Republicans and some Democrats argue that terrorists should be treated not as criminals but as enemy combatants and tried by military commission.

"These policies are ill-conceived and they need to stop and start over," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Graham said he favors closing the jail at Guantanamo Bay because its existence helps recruit terrorists to al-Qaida. But he said that treating terrorists as criminals to be tried in civilian courts "is a huge mistake that will come back to haunt us."

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