Challenges Remain In Bringing 9/11 Suspects To N.Y. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others are set to stand trial in New York City for the Sept. 11 attacks. They will be moved from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. NPR's counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston tells guest host Robert Smith about the challenges in getting the prisoner to the New York courtroom.

Challenges Remain In Bringing 9/11 Suspects To N.Y.

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Hey, Dina.

DINA TEMPLE: Hey there, Robert.

SMITH: So I should say right up front, we're making some assumptions here. The U.S. marshals aren't about to give you an itinerary for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. So, how do we make an educated guess on what's going to happen?

TEMPLE: Well, a lot of this is based on what has happened in the past. They have moved high-level detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. in the past. And based on that and the way they move prisoners around generally in the federal prison system, we can make some pretty educated guesses on how he'll get here.

SMITH: So help us picture this. They're obviously in prison cells in Guantanamo Bay. How do they get them to a plane, I suppose? Do they walk them out on a tarmac? Is it the middle of the night? What do we know about how this transfer might happen?

TEMPLE: Well, we don't know what time it will be, although I think it's a pretty good bet that it's going to be in the middle of the night. But, yes, essentially, what would happen is they would be transferred to U.S. marshals, who would then put them on a plane.

SMITH: When I picture this plane, I can't help but think of the movie "Con Air," that Nicolas Cage movie about a prisoner transfer gone wrong. And the inside of the plane in this movie is almost industrial looking. There are cages and gates and men in shackles. Does any of that have a basis in reality?

TEMPLE: Najibullah Zazi, the Denver area man accused of plotting to bomb these transportation targets in New York, was flown into Teterboro.

SMITH: Now, I've been to Teterboro, and in order to get into Manhattan, you usually go through the Lincoln Tunnel or you could go over the George Washington Bridge. I take it that's probably not going to happen.

TEMPLE: That's highly unlikely to happen. They flew Zazi from Teterboro to a heliport in downtown Manhattan.

SMITH: Now, once he is actually in Manhattan, I mean, none of these precautions stop. If anything, they'll ramp up at that point.

TEMPLE: Exactly. They'll pull him into an underground garage at the Manhattan Correctional Center. They'll probably take him to a unit called 10 South, which is a maximum security wing. That's where Bernie Madoff used to be as well.

SMITH: Now, once again, we are basing all of this on precedent. It could be a completely different scenario. But do we even have a good guess about when all of this will happen?

TEMPLE: I would guess we're going to find out that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and these other four men were transferred after the fact.

SMITH: Hey, thanks a lot, Dina.

TEMPLE: You're welcome.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.