- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey warned Tuesday that trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other terrorist suspects in Manhattan could become an ugly sideshow.

Mr. Mukasey presided over terrorist trials in New York City before becoming attorney general but said that was before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“It’s simply a fact of life that a jihadist, particularly somebody like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, is looking for a big stage,” Mr. Mukasey told The Washington Times’ “America’s Morning News” radio show. “New York City is the biggest stage in the world, and the attempt will be made to make this as big, spectacular and ugly as possible.”

He pointed to the 2006 trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, convicted in Virginia of conspiring to kill U.S. citizens as part of the 2001 attacks and sentenced to life in prison.

Mr. Moussaoui, who represented himself, wanted captured al Qaeda members as witnesses and shouted “America, you lost … I won” and “God save Osama bin Laden. You will never get him.”

“Moussaoui made a circus out of his trial,” said Mr. Mukasey, a U.S. District judge for the Southern District of New York before serving as attorney general for the Bush administration from 2007 to 2009.

Mr. Muhammad and his co-conspirators can try similar tactics because civilian courts allow defendants to act as their own lawyer, said Mr. Mukasey, who presided over the 1995-96 trial in New York City of Omar Abdel Rahman and El Sayyid Nosair, sentenced to life in prison for plotting to bomb the United Nations building and other New York City landmarks.

Mr. Mukasey also supported the criticism that the Obama administration’s plan for the trials — as announced Friday by Attorney General Eric Holder — reflects a “pre-9-11” mentality, or worse.

He cited Mr. Obama’s decision to bring suspected terrorists from the Guantanamo Bay detention center to trial on U.S. soil and his refusal to use the term “war of terror.”

“Using soft, cushy euphemisms instead reflect they’re back in a pre-9-11 mentality,” he said. “In some ways it’s worse, because at least before [the attacks] we were not aware of what we were facing.”

Mr. Mukasey also said the mass shooting at the Fort Hood Army base in which 13 people were killed was a terrorist act.

Witnesses said suspected shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan yelled “Allahu Akbar” before shooting.

“It’s impossible to categorize it as any other act,” Mr. Mukasey said.

He said Maj. Hasan represents the new breed of “leaderless jihadists,” encouraged by Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders.

“This man is a fulfillment of their dreams,” he said.

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