Holder Announces Sept. 11 Trials In U.S.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Its MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And Im Renee Montagne.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced this morning that the alleged mastermind of the September 11th attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and four of his codefendants will stand trial in civilian criminal court.
Attorney General ERIC HOLDER (Department of Justice): After eight years of delay, those allegedly responsible for the attacks of September the 11th will finally face justice. They will be brought to New York to answer for their alleged crimes in a courthouse just blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood.
MONTAGNE: Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking this hour in Washington. NPRs Dina Temple-Raston has been following this story, and joins us now live.
And Dina, weve just heard the attorney general. How precisely will this work?
DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - the admitted mastermind of the 9/11 attacks - and his codefendants are going to be moved from Guantanamo Bay to New York. And the attorney general said hes already spoken to New York Governor David Paterson and to New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg about his decision to move them here. Now, Holder said he plans to seek the death penalty for all five men. And because this is such a big trial, hes - Attorney General Holder said hes going to try all these men together. He said hes decided to assign U.S. attorneys from the Southern District and some from Virginia to prosecute this case in New York.
MONTAGNE: Now, Attorney General Holder, who we just heard emphasizing very strongly the words just blocks away from the Twin Towers. How symbolic is this, being so close to where the attacks were?
TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, clearly, it is symbolic. I mean, you can practically throw a stone at the scene of the crime. But theres some very practical reasons for doing this, as well. The feeling is that New York, and specifically the Southern District, has done this kind of complicated terrorism case before. A grand jury in the Southern District has already indicted Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for another terrorism plot. In 96, he was implicated in a plan, you may remember, to explode 12 commercial jets over the Pacific. Thats known as the Bojinka Plot. And a federal grand jury in New York brought an indictment for that. And so they sort of know what theyre doing, here. I think thats why hes focused so much and said so often Southern District of New York.
MONTAGNE: And the obstacles ahead, either legal or political?
TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, once the Justice Department announces where the suspects are going to be tried, they have to provide at least 45 days notice to representatives of those states that will be involved. And its unclear and weve heard this this morning if the phone calls that Holder made this morning to Governor and Mayor Bloomberg mean that clock, that 45-day clock has started. I mean, already, theres some uproar about this. Congressmen Peter King of New York has already said that he doesnt like this decision. He says that it will make New York even more of a terrorist target than it already is. So theres some tough sledding ahead.
MONTAGNE: Well, just briefly, there was another announcement about the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing. That was that attack on the US military ship in Yemen in 2000.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Right. Abd al-Nashiri is described by the U.S. as a 15-year associate of Osama bin Laden and the mastermind of several attacks at sea. And the Justice Department basically said that he was going to be tried in a military commission for the bombing of the USS Cole. And you may recall, 17 sailors died in that attack.
MONTAGNE: Dina, thanks very much.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Youre welcome.
MONTAGNE: NPRs Dina Temple-Raston, on news today that the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and four of his codefendants will stand trial in a New York court.