Obama Reportedly Orders Justice Department to Consider Alternative Sites for Terror Trial

Attorney General Eric Holder suffered an embarrassing setback yesterday when the White House ordered the Justice Department to find another location for the trial of the 9/11 suspects. If true, this would be a troubling intervention of the White House into a pending criminal case and seems to follow political pressure on the venue for the trial.

New York Michael Bloomberg yesterday complained about the inconvenience and expense to New Yorkers if the trial were held in Manhattan. This follows opposition from Democratic and Republicans senators in even giving these defendants a fair trial in federal court — as opposed to a military tribunal that does not afford them the full rights under our Constitution.

Bloomberg stated that he would “prefer that they did it elsewhere.” Objecting that “[i]t would be an inconvenience at the least, and probably that’s too mild a word for people that live in the neighborhood and businesses in the neighborhood . . . There are places that would be less expensive for the taxpayers and less disruptive for New York City.”

It is very troubling to see such decisions being made by the White House under political pressure. The choice of venue is supposed to be made by prosecutors on the basis of the most logical venue after considering the location of the crime and other factors. We just ended a period in which the Justice Department was politicized by the Bush Administration to an unprecedented degree.

This story follows Obama’s statements that virtually assured the public of convictions, here. It also followed a very political press conference by Holder where he seemed to go out of his way to describe why a Manhattan venue would maximize the bias of a jury at the trial.

It also creates some serious logistical problems. Holder picked the New York prosecutors to handle the case over such rivals as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. If they move the trial outside of New York city, these prosecutors will have to move much of their offices or a new team selected.

It is also disconcerting to see such wavering in a major case. These are important decisions that should be made after thorough vetting and analysis. To order such a change at this stage not only shows political influence but a lack of planning within the Justice Department.

Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office said he was “pleased” with the decision and stressed that the change occurred after he spoke “with high-level members of the administration and urged them to find alternatives.”

According to the report below, the change caught prosecutors off-guard and one federal official observed “[t]hey’re in a tizzy at Justice over Bloomberg. It’s like a half-baked soufflé – the plan is collapsing.”

The problem is whether political pressure will now mount for a tribunal and, to paraphrase a popular song, “if you can’t make it in New York, you can’t make it anywhere.”

For the full story, click here and here.

36 thoughts on “Obama Reportedly Orders Justice Department to Consider Alternative Sites for Terror Trial”

  1. “There is no good/easy answer.”

    That’s nonsense. The answer IS easy. Our criminal courts tried the blind sheik (I think in NYC) responsible for the 1993 WTC bombing, Timothy McVeigh, Jose Padilla….

    NIMBY is a pretty lame reason to indict the American justice system and assume it can’t handle these trials. That’s precisely the kind of scaredy-cat wimpering I was talking about.

    An act of terrorism in peace time is NOT an act of war, it’s a criminal act. Think Timothy McVeigh. In fact, during a war, actions such as what happened on 9/11 are simply acts of war with no legal repercussions.

    Bush/Cheney claimed it an act of war because it fit into their plan to expand the powers of the President. They believed they could get away with torture via the unconstitutional use of Gitmo as a prison (the pre-Robert’s SCOTUS ruled otherwise). They were wrong to say the very least. Doing anything but trying these guys on American soil, in American courts and sending them away UFN continues their fear mongering and retards America’s healing. I’m not so sure conservatives want America to heal or to stop fearing, but thankfully, they’re not setting the agenda any longer and their twisted view of America and our judicial system does not prevail.

  2. TDA:
    Good grief, that just makes a complete joke out of the refugee system.

  3. Do these whiners really, actually believe that America is so weak that we can’t simply do the right thing and hold these criminals responsible through our imperfect, but generally excellent criminal justice system? Are they that afraid?

    (As an off topic aside, apparently we have run out of people who are tortured or under threat of murder in dangerous countries around the world to whom we could grant asylum. We’ve worked our way down the list and we’re now on to protecting Christian home schoolers who have been unbearably harassed by the despotic government of Germany:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jan/27/german-home-schooling-family-asylum
    I’m sure this decision points to the extraordinarily high caliber of our immigration judges. Oh, and how our immigration process is totally free from the influence of racism and/or religious extremists who influence our political system. Yep, just calling balls and strikes, I’m sure.)

  4. Well then maybe the can have it in Preston Hollow at Tom Hick’s home. He was kind enough to open his yard for a heliport for “W” use.

    A side note or snide note, “W” has been good for Hicks’ as well. He had to sell the Rangers. It was for an amount that almost equaled the default

    DALLAS — The company that owns baseball’s Texas Rangers and hockey’s Dallas Stars has defaulted on about $525 million in loans, with owner Tom Hicks saying on Friday that he intentionally made the move to help negotiate with banks.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=4041596

    Rangers owner Hicks agrees to sell team to Nolan Ryan group

    The purchase price is expected to be more than $500 million.

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/story/12828467/rangers-owner-hicks-agrees-to-sell-team-to-nolan-ryan-group

    So whats good for the Country is good for Hicks.

  5. My venue suggestion was in deference to the innocent Texans who post herein.

  6. I think Crawford is a great place. Its secure, far away, in the country. Parameters are intact, surveillance cameras, Ft Hood not to far away. Good venue, FFLEO.

    Dallas, not so much to many street and grassy knolls.

  7. Maybe its because the NY Governor asked President Obama on the View yesterday; to change the venue for the safety and mental status of all the New Yorkers still dealing with the 9/11 trama.

    Peace out

  8. rcambell said “Try them, execute them and let’s move on.”

    Sounds very “Presidential”, but it leaves me shaking my head in disbelief.

    Moving it out of New York is a good idea. I don’t want it in my backyard. I don’t think anybody wants it in their backyard.

    I think an act of terrorism is an act of war, and should be dealt with in a military tribunal. If that is objectionable to some, then I suggest we turn to an international tribunal, or permit appeal from the military tribunal to an international tribunal. But that would open an other can of worms.

    There is no good/easy answer.

  9. I think all this hand-wringing about where the trial is to be held makes Americans look cowering and weak. It’s the result of years of Republican scare-mongering. We either have the cajones to put proudly these guys on trial in the full light of day or we don’t. If we don’t, and to an extent I feel even if the venue is changed, al Qaeda has won a victory. We already know defendents will use the platform to spew their hate. Don’t broadcast the trials and don’t publish their spew. They may be entitled to a trial, but many things can be done to minimize their propaganda value for al Qaeda. Try them, execute them and let’s move on.

  10. Never in my lifetime can I remember a president being dealt a deck of cards like the ones dealt to President Obama.

    And it seems that the up coming elections will not make his job any easier,not only with this situation but with jobs,the economy etc.

  11. I hope that the statement is not merely tongue in cheek. How about the Hague or Venezuela or someplace outside of the US where these folks are indeed afforded the appearance and hopefully a fair trial.

    I certainly would not want it held here, would you?

  12. Maybe the Whitehouse could order the Justice Department to abide by the law.

    The Justice Department is withholding documents demanded by this newspaper under terms of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In so doing, the department is asserting privileges that do not exist or do not apply. Ironic as it may sound, Justice seems to be breaking the law.

    The Washington Times’ FOIA request asked for documents pertaining to the department’s controversial decision to dismiss a civil complaint accusing the New Black Panther Party of intimidating Philadelphia voters on Election Day 2008. In response, the department said it would withhold 69 documents totaling 135 pages, including interdepartmental e-mails, drafts of court filings and briefing materials. The department claimed that “deliberative process” and “attorney work-product” privileges exempted the material from disclosure.

    http://washingtontimes.com/news/2010/jan/27/justice-foils-foia/

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