Two key senators want to slash funding for civilian terror trials and give the money to the U.S. Coast Guard.
Senate Homeland Security Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the panel's top Republican, want to use the $200 million the Obama budget proposes for the controversial civilian trials and use it to restore budget cuts for the Coast Guard.
"Since I think terrorist trials should be conducted in a military, rather than a civilian, setting, the proposed $200 million set aside for security at civilian terror trials would be far better spent shoring up the critical operations of the U.S. Coast Guard," Lieberman said in a statement.
Lieberman is also backing a separate bill that would prohibit the government from spending any money to hold trials for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other 9/11 terror suspects in civilian U.S. courts. That bill, spearheaded by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), has significant backing from Democrats — Sens. Jim Webb of Virginia, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska have all signed on.
The Coast Guard is facing a $75 million budget cut that will cost them 1,100 uniformed personnel. Slated for cuts are five of the maritime counterterrorism teams, including the one charged with protecting New York City. The teams were created in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks to address waterborne terror threats.
"An attack on a major port would have devastating consequences, causing widespread loss of life. Because the ports are vital economic centers, an attack would also send ripple effects throughout our economy," Collins said.