- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Wednesday Congress is responsible for the delay in closing the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility because lawmakers have not yet approved a new prison to hold suspected terrorist detainees.

Testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Holder also said no final decision has been made on where to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and said his original choice of New York City is still a possibility. Mr. Holder had initially announced the trial would be held in New York but the White House said that decision would be reviewed in light of national security concerns.

“New York is not off the table as a place where he might be tried, but we have to take into consideration the concerns that have been raised by local officials,” he said. He also said that trying the case in New York doesn’t have to mean only in Manhattan, since the southern district of New York, the jurisdiction in which a trial has been proposed, extends beyond just the island.

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the committee and a former U.S. attorney, said he was worried Mr. Holder’s decision on where to hold the trial was being overturned by political aides in the administration.

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“It makes me a bit uneasy, having served in the department, to have politicians discussing where the cases ought to be tried,” Mr. Sessions said. “That’s normally [done by] the Department of Justice professional prosecutors.”

On Guantanamo Bay, the administration has come under fire from the left for failing to meet President Obama’s vow to close the prison within a year of taking office.

On Wednesday, under questioning from Sen. Herb Kohl, the Wisconsin Democrat who was chairing the hearing, Mr. Holder said it’s actually Congress that needs to act now. Mr. Holder said the administration has sent a budget request for a new prison in Illinois to hold detainees that cannot be released and cannot be tried, and that Congress must approve that.

“We have to have an option, and that will require congressional support for the funding request we have made,” Mr. Holder said.

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