February 4th, 2010
02:36 PM ET

Why the 9/11 trial belongs in New York

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/04/nypd.wtc.jpg caption="New York City police officers guard lower Manhattan, near Ground Zero."]

Peter Bergen and Karen Greenberg
Special to CNN

Obama administration officials, apparently bowing to political pressure, said over the weekend they are considering moving the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused operational commander of the 9/11 attacks, out of New York City.

The objections to holding it in New York seem reasonable: The financial cost to the city and the fear that the trial might inspire a lone bomber or even an organized al Qaeda attack.

Certainly, holding Mohammed's trial over many months and even years in the congested streets of Lower Manhattan will damage the local economy. But the fix for this could be straightforward: Move the trial to one of the many other courthouses in the five boroughs, or to Governor's Island, which is within sight of the crater where the World Trade Center once stood.

As to fears of bringing on another attack, putting Mohammed on trial in New York doesn't make the city any bigger a target than it already is, because - guess what - New York already is the No. 1 target for jihadist militants. It has been so for almost two decades, since the first Trade Center attack in 1993, which was followed by the averted plots to blow up the Holland Tunnel and other Manhattan landmarks and the 9/11 attacks themselves. Since then, there has been a plot to blow up the Herald Square subway station and alleged attempts to bomb fuel tanks at JFK airport and synagogues in the Bronx.

The unconvincing objections about the costs of holding the trial and the heightened terror threat that comes with it are also trumped by the larger public good from putting Mohammed on trial in New York City.

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Filed under: Justice Department • Peter Bergen • Terrorism
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Cecil

    Every captured terriorist should be treated as a military prisoner and tried accordingly. We seem to have too many who are more concerned about the treatment of the terriorist than they are about the murdered innocent!

    February 4, 2010 at 10:50 pm |
  2. alice

    New Yorkers should be the ones to judge these guys... period.
    True New Yorkers are not afraid of retaliation...

    February 4, 2010 at 8:06 pm |
  3. Carol B.

    Peter and Karen,
    How should the city "Be restoring the sense of security they once had and now deserve?" Wasn't it really a false sense of security pre-9/11, because the planes were hijacked by terrorists from elsewhere and noone saw it coming? It seems like the TSA and all modes of transportation and security need to communicate and shore up efforts to protect citizens from another horrific attack.

    February 4, 2010 at 6:46 pm |
  4. Susan DiCarlo

    I just sent a Tweet about this. Why not just have the trial's at Levenworth so when it is over with they don't have very far to walk? This would be the best place to house these individuals anyway if we have to keep them in the US

    February 4, 2010 at 5:11 pm |
  5. Laurie

    What are we afraid of? I believe America can handle it. Any place will require security. And security costs money. We should stop making these people out like they are super criminals. Are you any less dead if someone pulls a gun on you? Yes there are groups that hate America-so what? We can handle it-stop acting like they are more dangerous than our intellect. Wooo-be scared...fear is just what they want. And some people are playing that up for their own benefit. Come on-get some guts-we're Americans!

    February 4, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
  6. Kevin Thurwanger

    Unfortunately, I don't agree with this article. The costs of the trials and heighted terror alerts are valid reasons to move the trial to another location. However, do not overlook the fact that many people were dramatically affected by the events on 9/11. Many individuals and families living in New York have tried to move on from the past. Holding the trial in lower Manhattan may only re-ignite memories that people have tried to put behind them. This is a case where the needs of the few outway the wants of the many.

    February 4, 2010 at 4:25 pm |
  7. Tim Gibson

    Would it be not more of a signal to those who wish us harm to hold this trial in a military court to prove that our military might is strong. Anything less is political grandstanding by our leadership in a fashion that does nothing for our strength or the image of our nation.

    February 4, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
  8. Will

    He is a military prisoner and should not be tried in civilian court. Mr. Obama is neglecting his oath to protect the American public by bringing the trial to NYC.

    February 4, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
  9. Sara

    I think the real question should be what do the people of New York want? And the Country should stand behind them in whatever that is.

    February 4, 2010 at 4:05 pm |
  10. Reggie523

    As an out sider that have done work in the Tel co cross the street from the towers....also I was sitting on a plane in Miami when the attacks occurred. That saying I now live and work in Augusta, Ga. I think we should help an able and needy area of the USA.

    February 4, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
  11. Pat Tibbs

    Thank you for publishing this column.

    I and my whole Current Affairs Forum have been saying for weeks that Governor's Island is the logical place to hold this trail. Security would be so much simpler, and less expensive. Just circle the island with military & restrict access to the island.

    Let's hear it for Peter Bergen and Karen Greenberg, the sanest voices on this subject.

    February 4, 2010 at 3:20 pm |
  12. Denise Barlow

    Whatever happens and wherever this trial ends up, it's not going to be pretty. U.S sercurity needs to be tripled and be ready for ANYTHING! We don't need any surprises like the Christmas bomber.

    February 4, 2010 at 3:16 pm |