Amid fears that the White House may move the terrorist trials connected with September 11, 2001, to the Washington, D.C., region, GOP lawmakers are planning to introduce legislation that would bar the use federal funds for their prosecution in any U.S.--
The move comes as the White House, met with growing opposition, has reportedly begun considering alternative locations to the originally planned federal district court in downtown Manhattan to try the professed 9/11 “mastermind” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-defendants.
The legislation expected to be introduced early next week is sponsored by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), whose district borders Washington, D.C., and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and would prohibit funding for any Justice Department prosecution in civilian courts of a person being tried in connection with the 9/11 attacks.
Earlier this week, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) introduced a similar bill that would prohibit the use of federal funds to try within U.S. civilian courts any detainee being kept in the Guantanamo Bay prison.
New York Gov. David Paterson and, in a stark reversal, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday expressed their disapproval for holding the trials in the Manhattan court, mere blocks away from where the World Trade Center towers once stood, saying that it would cost the city and state hundreds of millions of dollars in security costs.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) earlier this month asked President Barack Obama to include in his budget -- set to be released to Congress next week -- security funds for state and city security costs.
While there has been no official announcement as to where the trials would be held if the White House decided against New York City, several Republican aides said that the administration was considering the Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia areas, an unpopulated island near Manhattan or nearby military installations.
Wolf raised objections several weeks ago to reports that the White House was considering hosting the trial of Riduan Isamuddin – an alleged close ally of Osama bin Laden’s -- and two other defendants in the Washington, D.C., region.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Wolf said that there had been enough recent intelligence pointing to possible terrorists threats related to Isamuddin to deny him a trial in civilian courts in the D.C. area, suggesting that to do so would put the region in jeopardy.
While most of the politicians speaking about the terrorist trials being brought stateside were opposed to the idea this week, the mayor of Newburgh, N.Y. -- a small city an hour outside of New York City -- said on Friday that he would be happy to host the trials at a nearby Air National Guard base, according to the New York Post, saying that he saw it as a “tourist attraction” and that it “would put Newburgh on the map.”
Chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said on Friday that she opposed bringing the trials to New York City.
“I think that the administration ought to listen to the mayor, listen to the mayor’s concern and candidly make a change,” said Feinstein in an MSNBC interview. “There is nothing wrong with making a change.”
“[Mohammed] does not have to be tried in NYC. If there is evidence that this will either make NYC a target or present unusual expenses, then the mayor -- and I’ve been a mayor -- should be listened to.”
Earlier in the week a bipartisan contingent of senators wrote Holder and asked him to consider military trials for the alleged terrorists, saying, “The attacks of 9/11 were acts of war, and those who planned and carried out those attacks are war criminals.”
The letter was signed by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Jim Webb (D-Va.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).