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Backlash may move Sept. 11 trial from New York

Backlash may move Sept. 11 trial from New York

Pressured by a growing clamor from New York, the Obama administration is considering moving the trial of Sept. 11 terror suspects away from Manhattan, where it had been scheduled just blocks from the site of the twin towers attack.
The city's top police official says he thinks the trial will not take place anywhere in the city.
The Justice Department is drawing up plans for possible alternate locations to try professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged accomplices in case Congress or local officials prevent the trial from being held in Manhattan, two administration officials said Friday.
Terrorists flew two commercial airliners into the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, destroying the buildings and killing more than 2,700 people. An airliner also was flown into the Pentagon just outside Washington that day, and another plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania when passengers tried to overtake the hijackers.
The federal courthouse is in lower Manhattan, the same area of the city where the World Trade Center once stood.
Though the officials would not discuss locations under consideration, others have suggested Governors Island, a former military base in New York Harbor that now welcomes summertime picnickers and bike riders; the U.S. Military Academy at West Point or Stewart Air National Guard Base in nearby Newburgh, New York, 60 miles (100 kilometers) north of Manhattan. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the deliberation.
New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters Friday that a backlash had made it "unlikely" the case would go forward in the city. He said plans to hold the trial there started to unravel after a speech he gave recently detailing the enormous costs and logistical challenges of ensuring security at the lower Manhattan courthouse.
Criticism of the plan, which had been announced by Attorney General Eric Holder last year, reached a crescendo this week when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg reversed his earlier support. On his weekly radio show Friday, Bloomberg said he had spoken with "high level" people in the Obama administration about his concerns and they were "trying to do something."
New York Gov. David Paterson said he was "elated that our concerns are being considered by the president and the federal government." He had said earlier this week that if the cases went forward in the city, "Every time there is a loud noise during the two years of those trials it's going to frighten people, and I think New Yorkers have been through enough."
Moving the trial would be a setback for President Barack Obama. His administration has spent weeks defending its handling of terror threats following the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner, a case that reignited the debate about whether such terror suspects should face civilian or military justice.
Obama has long supported trying some terrorists in federal, civilian court, while Republicans have argued that terrorists _ including the five alleged 9/11 conspirators _ should be tried in military tribunals where other Guantanamo Bay detainees will be judged.
Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, said Thursday he has introduced a bill that would prohibit the use of Justice Department funds to try Guantanamo detainees in federal civilian courts. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said he will introduce a similar bill in the Senate next week.
When asked by reporters Thursday about the president's commitment to holding civilian trials, White House spokesman Bill Burton said Obama believes Mohammed and his alleged accomplishes could be successfully and securely brought to justice in a federal court.
"Currently our federal jails hold hundreds of convicted terrorists, and the president's opinion has not changed on that," Burton said.
Mayor Nicholas Valentine of the small upstate city of Newburgh has offered his community as a possible location. The city has a new state-of-the-art courthouse, he said, and is less than a 90-minute commute from Manhattan. The air base there has been used in the past to fly in terror suspects facing trial in the district.
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Associated Press Writers Devlin Barrett and Kevin Freking in Washington, Sara Kugler and Colleen Long in New York and Michael Hill in Albany, New York, contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-03-08 21:32 GMT+08:00