Reporting Stan Brooks
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - The self-proclaimed mastermind of the devastating 9/11 attacks on America will be tried before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday.
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The location of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s trial has been the subject of intense debate. Many New Yorkers wanted him brought to justice here, where his deadly plot left its greatest mark. However, concerns about security – and costs – prompted many to argue Mohammed should be tried elsewhere.
The decision will save the city an estimated $1 billion — $200 million a year for each of the five years the trial and court proceedings were expected to take, CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer reported.
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Holder originally proposed trying Mohammed and four alleged accomplices at federal court in lower Manhattan. That prompted a chorus of disapproval from numerous officials, including then Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Long Island Congressman Peter King. The pushback prompted a lengthy review of the venue and mechanism of the trial.
“We simply cannot allow a trial to be delayed any longer for the victims of the 9/11 attacks or for their family members who have waited for nearly a decade for justice,” Holder said as he announced the decision.
“I have talked to these family members on many occasions over the last two years, like many Americans they differ on where the 9/11 conspirators should be prosecuted but there is one thing on which they all agree – we must bring the conspirators to justice,” he added.
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The news has some New Yorkers breathing a sigh of relief.
“I work over here…I don’t want any more craziness,” one woman told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg.
However, not all New Yorkers shared the sentiment and believe that justice should be served in the city.
“I think the government is bowing to political pressure,” Kevin O’Connell said. “I was here on 9/11. If people are responsible for that, they should be tried here.”
Other city residents worried less about the location of the trial and were more concerned about the outcome.
“More important thing is that he gets a fair trial,” Gary Lesser said.
Another man suggested he believed that a fair trial for Mohammed was just an illusion.
“In the United States, there’s duel justice for everybody. It’s a paradox of justice here,” he said.
Bloomberg, on Monday, welcomed the decision to try the suspects in a military tribunal.
“I’ve always thought that’s more appropriate,” Bloomberg said. “While we would’ve provided the security if we had to here in New York City, being spared the expense is good for us.”
“I have always said that the perpetrators of this horrible crime should get the ultimate penalty, and I believe this proposal by the administration can make that happen.” Sen. Charles Schumer said in a statement.
“For the victims of these heinous attacks and for their families that justice is long overdue and it must not be delayed any longer,” Holder said.
Jim Riches, who lost his firefighter son on 9/11, said he would like to see the trial move forward quickly.
“They killed my son here. My son’s body was buried under the rubble here. Let them come back and face it where they killed him. But…I want a trial now. It’s just been delayed so long,” Riches said.
Even though Holder reversed his position on the trials of Muhammad and four other conspirators, he defended the role of the federal court system in prosecuting terrorists.
“There is no other tool that has demonstrated the ability to both incapacitate terrorists and collect intelligence from them over such a diverse range of circumstances as our traditional justice system,” Holder said. “Our national security demands that we continue to prosecute terrorists in federal courts and we will do so.”
The Attorney General expressed some mixed feelings about not holding the trial in his hometown.
“I grew up in New York City, I grew up in Queens, I went to school in Manhattan for high school, for college for law school it is still a place I consider home,” Holder said. “I have full confidence in the ability of the people of New York, the authorities of New York to try this case safely and securely in New York City. If I didn’t have that faith I would not have made that initial determination, it is still my view that that case could’ve been tried in Manhattan.”
When he ran for president, Barack Obama argued that the 9/11 conspirators should be tried in civilian court. The decision to try Mohammed and four others before a military commission marks a reversal of that position.
Mohammed’s four alleged co-conspirators are Waleed bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi.
What do you think of the decision? Good one or bad call? Sound off in our comments section.