National Security

Eric Holder And The Politics Of Terrorism Trials

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Jane Mayer i

The Wall Street Journal nominated Jane Mayer twice for the Pulitzer Prize for feature-writing. The New Yorker hide caption

toggle caption The New Yorker
Jane Mayer

The Wall Street Journal nominated Jane Mayer twice for the Pulitzer Prize for feature-writing.

The New Yorker

Last December, hundreds of people showed up at a rally in Lower Manhattan to protest Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to try Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City.

"The crowd was shouting at the Jumbotron showing Holder's testimony to Congress, screaming 'Traitor, communist, hang him,'" recalls New Yorker writer Jane Mayer in an interview on today's Fresh Air. "It was an ugly scene," she says — so ugly that the magazine couldn't print some of what the protesters yelled.

Mayer writes about Holder's decision to try Mohammed in a civil court — as well as the political and legal ramifications of that decision — for the Feb. 15 New Yorker. She reports, too, on how "underwear bomber" Umar Abdulmutallab was handled by federal authorities after his arrest, explaining the differences between his interrogations and Mohammad's.

She describes a growing political tempest around Holder, and quotes national-security analyst Karen Greenberg on one possible reason for its fierceness.

"It's about bringing the whole approach to handling terrorists back inside the rule of law," Greenberg tells Mayer in the article. "But it's a public rebuke, suggesting that for eight years his predecessors betrayed American traditions."

Mayer joins Terry Gross for a conversation about growing partisan differences about national security, and about how Holder's politically unpopular positions on terrorism issues have raised tensions among President Obama's closest advisers.

Before joining The New Yorker, Mayer was the first female White House correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. She is also the author of the best-selling 2008 book The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals.



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