Moving the 9/11 trials to New York City, in a civilian venue, won't jeopardize the chances of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his cohorts being convicted and put to death, according to the Commander in Chief.
President Barack Obama, seeking to placate those angry over the Justice Department's decision to bring Mohammed to and four others to Manhattan for a trial in federal court, says both critics and victims will be pleased with the outcome.
And Obama's prediction came as Attorney General Eric Holder defended bringing the alleged 9/11 mastermind and al Qaeda operative to the Big Apple.
During an interview with NBC today, President Obama said he did not think it is at all offensive that Mohammed will receive the legal rights of a U.S. citizen accused of a crime.
“I don't think it will be offensive at all when he's convicted and when the death penalty is applied to him,” the president told NBC's Chuck Todd.
Asked if he was interfering in the trial process by declaring that Mohammed will be executed, Obama insisted that he wasn’t prejudging the outcome.
“What I said was, people will not be offended if that's the outcome. I'm not pre-judging, I'm not going to be in that courtroom, that's the job of prosecutors, the judge and the jury,” Obama said. “What I'm absolutely clear about is that I have complete confidence in the American people and our legal traditions and the prosecutors, the tough prosecutors from New York who specialize in terrorism.”
This was also the line held by Attorney General Holder today as he testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee about his decision to bring Mohammed and four alleged henchmen from a detention center at Gunatanamo Bay to New York to face a federal civilian trial.
The country's top lawman said there is "no way" Mohammed will get off.
"Prosecuting the 9/11 defendants in federal court does not represent some larger judgment about whether or not we are at war," Holden said in Washington. "We are at war, and we will use every instrument of national power — civilian, military, law enforcement, intelligence, diplomatic and others — to win."
In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a slim majority of city residents said they are in favor of holding the trials in the city.
Sen. Charles Schumer asked Holder if the Justice Department was willing to reimburse the city for security costs from the trials -- which experts say could cost around $75 million.
Holder replied that "he did not disagree" that federal funds should be used and the money should not come out of state and city coffers.
Critics of Holder's decision — mostly Republicans — have argued the trial will give Mohammed a world stage to spout hateful rhetoric. To that, Holder said such concerns are misplaced. He replied that Mohammed had gone before a military panel last year where it was widely publicized that he had requested to become a "martyr."
Today, Holder asked how it was any different to allow him to continue his diatribe in civilian court and said such rants only serve to further discredit the al Qaida operative.
Addressing other concerns about the case, the attorney general says the public and the nation's intelligence secrets can be protected during a public trial in civilian court.
"We need not cower in the face of this enemy," Holder said. "Our institutions are strong, our infrastructure is sturdy, our resolve is firm, and our people are ready."
During Wednesday's hearing, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said he feared that the 9/11 trials and other national security decisions, signaled that under the Obama administration, fighting terrorism "isn't the priority that it once was...that we can return to the pre 9/11 mentality."
To this Holder responded:
"The 9/11 attacks were both an act of war and a violation of our federal criminal law, and they could have been prosecuted in either federal courts or military commissions." He added: "At the end of the day, it was clear to me that the venue in which we are most likely to obtain justice for the American people is in federal court."
Holder announced Friday that five accused Sept. 11 conspirators currently held at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will be transferred to federal court in Manhattan to face trial — just blocks from the site of the former World Trade Center.
Five other suspects, Holder said, will be sent to face justice before military commissions in the United States, though a location for those commissions has not yet been determined.
The actual transfer of the suspects to New York is still many weeks away. The transfers are a key step in President Barack Obama's pledge to close the detention center at Guantanamo, which currently houses some 215 detainees. The administration is not expected to meet its January deadline to shutter the facility.