After months of debate about where to hold the 9/11 terror trials, Attorney General Eric Holder says a decision will be made in a matter of weeks.
On Tuesday, Holder testified before a House Appropriations subcommittee that the decision on where to try the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others.
"I think that we are weeks away from making that determination,” he said. “I don’t think we’re talking about months.”
Holder announced back in November that the five would be prosecuted in a Manhattan federal court in a civilian trial, which was initially supported by city officials. But estimates of cost and security and logistical concerns, coupled with the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing, heightened the opposition.
Mayor Bloomberg, who originally called the trials in Manhattan “fitting,” said that the security for the trials could cost $1 billion.
“It’s going to cost an awful lot of money and disturb an awful lot of people,” Mr. Bloomberg later said. “My hope is that the attorney general and the president decide to change their mind.”
Republican South Carolina senator Lindsay Graham urges the Obama administration to hold the trials in a military tribunal.
"These Al-Qaeda terrorists are not common criminals,'' he said in his weekly radio and Internet address. "A civilian trial of hard-core terrorists is unnecessarily dangerous and creates more problems than it solves.''
Since the initial announcement, Holder has continued to stand by holding the trials in Manhattan, but said reviews are part of the process.
“We need not cower in the face of this enemy,” he said, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in November. “Our institutions are strong, our infrastructure is ready, our resolve is firm, and our people are ready.”
On Jan. 29, the announcement was made that the Obama administration would drop the plan, and the debate has waged on ever since.
In an interview with the New York Times, Holder said that he did not rule out a military trial but said, “I have to be more forceful in advocating for why I believe these are trials that should be held on the civilian side.”
On Feb. 9, he said that the administration hoped to announce a new venue for the trials within three weeks.
After the trial of Najibullah Zazi in a Brooklyn court, where Zazi pleaded guilty to terrorism charges, Holder used the trial to defend civilian terrorism trials.
“We are at war against a very dangerous, intelligent and adaptable enemy and we must use every weapon available to us in order to win that war. In this case as in so many others, the criminal justice system has proved to be a valuable tool,” he said. “We will continue to use it.”
Tuesday, Holder faced strong criticism from GOP members in the subcommittee who argue that it is too dangerous to try terror suspects in federal civilian courts.
Holder became heated by aggressive questioning over the hypothetical capture of Osama bin Laden.
“Let's deal with reality," he said in response. "The reality is that we will be reading Miranda rights to the corpse of Osama bin Laden. He will never appear in an American courtroom."