President Barack Obama’s advisers are “nearing a recommendation” that the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, return to a military tribunal for prosecution, the Washington Post reports.
The White House had already overruled Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision, announced with fanfare in November, to try Mohammed in New York City, near the site of the demolished World Trade Center towers. That reversal came after New York City business leaders and Mayor Michael Bloomberg complained in January about the cost and disruption of a trial in Manhattan.
Bloomberg’s remarks set off a stampede among Democratic officials, who rushed to oppose a trial in Manhattan, prompting the administration to look for a new venue.
Then came hints that the administration would drop the whole idea of civilian trials for KSM, as Mohammed is known in government circles, and other Guantanamo Bay detainees. The White House was struggling to win support in Congress for closing Guantanamo Bay, after blowing a self-imposed one-year deadline for shuttering the military detention facility in Cuba. Civilian trials were an obstacle to winning that support.
Civil liberty groups, already queasy about Obama administration policies that hewed in their view too closely to the George W. Bush administration, such as a reliance on a “state secrets” privilege to keep information on some terrorism suspects out of court, began bracing for the worst.
With today’s report that KSM isn’t likely to be tried in civilian court at all, Anthony Romero,executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, doesn’t hold back.
“If President Obama reverses Holder’s decision to try the 9/11 defendants in criminal court and retreats to using the Bush military commissions, he deals a death blow to his own Justice Department, breaks a clear campaign promise to restore the rule of law and demonstrates that the promises to his constituents are all up for grabs,” Romero told the Post.
“The military commissions have not worked, they are doomed to failure, and Obama will invariably find himself running for office again while not achieving justice for the 9/11 attacks,” Romero said.