Military panels will try alleged mastermind, 4 others, AG Holder says
PETE YOST AND EILEEN SULLIVAN
Washington— The Obama administration, ending more than a year of indecision with a major policy reversal, will prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other people accused of plotting the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks before a military commission and not a civilian court, as it once planned.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Monday that he has cleared military prosecutors at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to file war-crimes charges against the five detainees in the Sept. 11 case.
Holder had announced the earlier plan for trial in New York City in November 2009, but that foundered amid widespread opposition to a civilian court trial from Republicans and even some Democrats, particularly in New York. Congress passed legislation that prohibits bringing any detainees from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States.
On Monday, several Republicans praised the decision to hold a military trial, while attacking the administration for ever thinking otherwise.
“If the (Obama) administration believes that now that the main perpetrators of 9/11 will be tried in military courts that Congress will now back down on how justice will be administered to future terrorists they are wrong,”said U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township.
But groups that had praised Holder’s original plan as helping to restore the role of the traditional criminal justice system reacted with frustration on Monday.
“The attorney general’s flip-flop is devastating for the rule of law,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
In New York on Monday, the government unsealed and got a judge to dismiss an indictment in the case that charged Mohammed and the others with 10 counts relating to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The dismissal was because the defendants will not be tried in civilian court.
The indictment said that in late August 2001, as the terrorists in the United States made final preparations, Mohammed was notified about the date of the attack and relayed that to Osama bin Laden.
Some 9/11 family members supported the switch.
“We’re delighted,” said Alexander Santora, 74, father of deceased firefighter Christopher A. Santora. The father called the accused terrorists “demonic human beings, they’ve already said that they would kill us if they could, if they got the chance they would do it again.”