Axelrod: No Decision Yet on Site of 9/11 Trials
Here's the transcript of White House Adviser David Axelrod this morning on Meet the Press:
DAVID GREGORY: First the trial of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind behind 9/11. Has the administration reversed its stance and decided not to transfer him to New York for trial?
DAVID AXLEROD: We've made no decisions on that David, I've seen the reports. We've no made decisions on that yet. Look here's the situation, the attorney general and the defense department worked out protocols about how these cases should be handled. Under those protocols, the attorney general decided to bring Khalid Shaikh Mohammed back to New York to stand trial for his crime, for the murder of 3000 innocent people. And he wanted to do it near the site of the crime itself. He wanted to do what the Bush administration did over and over and over again, and try these people - try these murderers in article three court, or these uh .. and that's what he decided to do.
AXLEROD: The local authorities were receptive to that at the time, since then the mayor and the police chief and others have changed their minds and said they thought it would be too logistically difficult and too expensive. We have to take that into consideration and we're doing that now.
GREGORY: Well what does the President think? New York in or out?
AXLEROD: The President believes we need to take into consideration what the local authorities are saying but he also believes this, he believes that we ought to bring Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and all others who are involved in terrorist acts to justice swift and sure. In the American justice system. Now we have a military commission system and that has its place, but we ought to bring people to justice. The Bush administration tried 190 or more terrorists in that system. During that period Mr. Boehner and others had nothing to say about that, they were all supportive. When we tried Richard Reid the shoe bomber in the civilian courts for his crime, when we tried the twentieth bomber 911 conspirator, Moussaoui in Virginia for his crime, nobody said anything. In fact Rudy Giuliani said he was in awe of the American justice system. Mr Cheney said this was the way to do it. Now we have a Democratic president and suddenly we hear these protests. And it doesn't make sense and you ought to clarify what has changed between now and then that would cause people to reverse their positions 180.
The Republicans are wasting their time. These defendants will be tried in federal courts. Any bill to cut off funding will not pass, or will be vetoed. There are plenty of other districts where venue is proper which can accommodate the trials.
Also, if trying five together in one place is too nerve-wracking for spineless Republicans, the Government can split them up. Some of them might have good severance arguments with respect to the admission of post-arrest/seizure statements of their co-defendants. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzzi Binalshibh, for example. So maybe the cases should be tried in two or three districts, splitting up the defendants.
The essential 9/11 conspiracy case has already been tried once, in U.S. v. Moussaui. The exhibits from that trial are online at the E.D. of Virginia's website.
Most of the flight training took place in the Southern and Middle Districts of Florida. Some of the hijackers lived there. Boston played a key role. There's venue in Portland, ME and Arizona.
There is no shortage of places to try these defendants. Each defendant will require his own defense team (if death is sought, at least two lawyers must be appointed for each one, one of whom is an experienced death penalty lawyer), and there's no reason they have to be from the same district.
Here are some examples showing the preparation for the 9/11 attacks that occurred in other districts:
Chronology of Events for Hijackers, 8/16/01 - 9/11/01,
- Marwan Al-Shehhi
- Mohamed Atta
- Ziad Jarrah
- Ahmad Al-Haznawi
- Fayez Ahmed Banihammad
- Hamza Al-Ghamdi
- Waleed Al-Shehri
- Satam Al-Suqami
- Hani Hanjour
- Nawaf Al-Hazmi
- Khalid Al-Mihdhar
The 9/11 hijackers are dead. They are not going on trial. This is a conspiracy case. Venue is proper in any district in which an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy was committed. Each co-conspirator is liable for the acts of his fellow co-conspirators which were committed in furtherance of the conspiracy from the time he joined. Getting flight training, sending and receiving wire transfers to fund the hijackers' activities, taking test flights to other cities in preparation for the attacks, making preparatory phone calls and sending preparatory e-mails are all overt acts.
The U.S. has successfully tried over 150 terror trials in federal criminal courts since 2001. It's not a huge deal. Republicans are just playing games.
The Eastern District of Virginia and the Southern and Middle Districts of Florida, which tried Zacarias Moussaoui, Jose Padilla and two of his co-conspirators, and Professor Sami al-Arian, are obvious choices to me. New Jersey and Massachussetts could also handle it.
There's Arizona, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Maine. Check out this exhibit listing the numerous states the hijackers lived and rented hotel rooms.
Among the exhibits, I saw that Mohammed Atta took a flight from Las Vegas to Denver and from Denver to Boston on July 1, 2001. There are e-mails to United Airlines in Denver asking for manuals for the 747 and 757 and inquiring about taking flight simulator training in Denver. Denver could easily handle these trials, just as it did the OKC bombing trials of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.
This is a no-brainer. Reverting to a military tribunal would be a huge mistake for the Obama Administration. I don't believe Obama will do it. New York City may have been DOJ's preference, but there are many other districts that can accommodate these trials.
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