Attorney General Defends Trying 9/11 Terror Suspects in NYC

November 18, 2009 Updated: October 1, 2015

Attorney General Eric Holder arrives for a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill Nov. 18 in Washington, DC. The hearing was to examine the 'Oversight of the Department of Justice.'  (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Attorney General Eric Holder arrives for a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill Nov. 18 in Washington, DC. The hearing was to examine the 'Oversight of the Department of Justice.' (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday defended his decision to put the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on trial in New York City. In a speech before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Holder said he wanted to “clear up some of the misinformation” that has been spread.

Holding the trials for alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in New York City is still surrounded by controversy. The decision made last week has seen throwback from politicians in New York and across the country.

“First, we know that we can prosecute terrorists in our federal courts safely and securely because we have been doing it for years,” said Holder, moving on to issues of ensuring protection of classified materials, and ensuring Mohammad will “have no more of a platform to spew his hateful ideology.”

Holder said, “I have every confidence the nation and the world will see him for the coward he is.”

Four alleged co-conspirators of the 9/11 attacks will also stand trial in the courthouse.

Normally war criminals are tried in military tribunal. Allowing Mohammad to be tried in a civilian court has been regarded by some, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, as not recognizing Mohammad as a criminal in the war against terror.

Bloomberg took the opposite stance, saying in a statement, “It is fitting that 9/11 suspects face justice near where so many New Yorkers were murdered.”

Mohammad will be sent from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be tried in a federal court in Lower Manhattan, just a few blocks from the former site of the World Trade Center.

New York Governor David Paterson disagreed with the decision. “We still haven’t been able to rebuild that site, and having those terrorists tried so close to the attack is going to be an encumbrance to all New Yorkers,” said Paterson, according to the Daily News.

A poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports found 51 percent of Americans are opposed to trying the terror suspects in a civilian court. Another 29 percent were in favor, and 19 percent were undecided.

The poll also found that 58 percent of of Americans think New York City will be safe and secure during the trials, while 38 percent do not feel confident the city will be safe.

The official date of the trials still has not been set, yet Holder did allude some legal requirements need to be met before the suspects can be transferred, which includes a 45-day notice and report to Congress.

Federal rules will allow the court to seek the death penalty against the suspects.

During an interview with NBC on Wednesday, President Barack Obama said, “I think this notion that somehow we have to be fearful, that these terrorists are—possess some special powers that prevent us from presenting evidence against them, locking them up and, you know, exacting swift justice, I think that has been a fundamental mistake.”

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