Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Monday afternoon that the trial for confessed 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Shiekh Muhammed would not be held in a New York City courtroom but remain in a military commission, instead. In his speech he went after members of Congress who blocked the Justice Department from transferring any Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States: (All bolding below is mine)
Unfortunately, since I made that decision, Members of Congress have intervened and imposed restrictions blocking the administration from bringing any Guantanamo detainees to trial in the United States, regardless of the venue. As the President has said, those unwise and unwarranted restrictions undermine our counterterrorism efforts and could harm our national security. Decisions about who, where and how to prosecute have always been – and must remain – the responsibility of the executive branch. Members of Congress simply do not have access to the evidence and other information necessary to make prosecution judgments. Yet they have taken one of the nation’s most tested counterterrorism tools off the table and tied our hands in a way that could have serious ramifications. We will continue to seek to repeal those restrictions.
During a question and answer period with reporters, Mr. Holder was asked if he too often. in the past, rejected the public’s point of view on where the trial of KSM should be staged:
REPORTER: Mr. Holder, can you — you’ve been pretty clear on how you feel about the congressional actions here, but presumably most of those lawmakers represent constituents who have their own views. Is it your thinking that you know best and that there is just no room for the public’s view on where a trial should be held?
HOLDER: No, I don’t want to hold myself out as, you know, omniscient or anything like that. The reality is though I know this case in a way that members of congress do not. I have looked at the files. I have spoken to the prosecutors. I know the tactical concerns that have to go into this decision.
REPORTER: So do I know better than them?
HOLDER: Yes. I respect their ability to disagree, but I think they should respect the fact this is an executive branch function, a unique executive branch function. I have to deal with the situation as I find it, and i have reluctantly made the determination that’s cases should be brought in a military commission.
A.G. Holder referenced his New York upbringing and described why he would have wanted the trial to be set in New York as opposed to a military commission.
REPORTER: And the public, such as the groups in New York City that came to oppose the trial there, should they have any voice at all in such a decision?
HOLDER: We took into account a whole variety of things in trying to make a determination as to where these cases should be brought and it was one of the republicans why I considered the possibility of bringing it in otisville prison which is in the southern dtrict of new york, would not have come up with any of the concerns people had about bringing a case in manhattan. Would have lowered the cost but even that option was taken off the table by Congress. Look, I grew up in New York City. I grew up in queens. I went to school in manhattan for high school, for college, for law school. It is still a place I consider home. I had full confidence in the ability of the people of new york, the authorities in new york, to try this case safely and securely in new york city. If I didn’t have that faith, i would not have made that initial determination. It is still my view that that case could have been tried in Manhattan.
Mr. Holder took a final shot at lawmakers and others who opposed the planned trial for KSM in New York. At the end of his speech he criticized them for “settling ideological arguments or scoring political talking points.” :
Sadly, this case has been marked by needless controversy since the beginning. But despite all the argument and debate it has engendered, the prosecution of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-conspirators should never have been about settling ideological arguments or scoring political points. At the end of our indictment appear the names of 2,976 people who were killed in the attacks on that deadly September day nearly ten years ago. Innocent Americans and citizens of foreign countries alike who were murdered by ruthless terrorists intent on crippling our nation and attacking the values that we hold dear. This case has always been about delivering justice for those victims, and for their surviving loved ones. Nothing else. It is my sincere hope that, through the actions we take today, we will finally be able to deliver the justice they have so long deserved.