Game over: WH sources say New York trial for KSM is all but dead

The more I think about it, the less I like it.

The Obama administration appears to have abandoned plans to put Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and four co-conspirators on trial in Lower Manhattan, according to administration sources.

“It seems less and less likely” that the trial will take place in New York, according to a senior administration official…

In a letter to the president Friday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said a New York trial heightens the risk of a terrorist attack.

“Without getting into classified details, I believe we should view the attempted Christmas Day plot as a continuation, not an end, of plots to strike the United States by al-Qaeda and its affiliates,” Feinstein said. “Moreover, New York City has been a high-priority target since at least the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. The trial of the most significant terrorist in custody would add to the threat.”

There are three reasons to move the trial. The first is cost, but the higher cost of holding it in NYC is arguably justified by the city’s institutional knowledge of conducting terrorism trials and the NYPD’s counterterrorism capabilities. More money gets you better security in this case. The second is that moving him to a military tribunal would deny him a public soapbox for propaganda and the sort of discovery rights that could threaten national security. Problem is, they’re not talking about sending him to a tribunal; on the contrary, according to WaPo, the White House is fully committed to a civilian trial somewhere in America. The third reason, and the one that grates, is that New Yorkers supposedly can’t stand the ordeal of hosting this filthbag in town. Quoth David Paterson, “Every time there is a loud noise during the two years of those trials, it’s going to frighten people and I think New Yorkers have been through enough.” Which sounds nice, except that (a) shuddering at loud noises is already priced into the experience of living in the city post-9/11, and (b) shouting “no mas” in the face of a terrorist threat — which will remain grave whether KSM is tried here or not — isn’t exactly Patton-esque. We can take it. Short of moving, we have no choice.

There is one good reason for moving it, even if it’s only to a civilian court in another city. If, as most everyone agrees, the threat of terrorism will be even higher during a trial than it normally is, it makes no sense strategically to paint a bigger bullseye on the country’s financial nerve center. The economic fallout from an attack will be huge anyway; why risk making it huger by putting Wall Street directly in the line of fire? Exit rallying cry: Do it for the fatcat bankers!

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