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,

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.

Once again, here are the constitutional, statutory and rule provisions on venue. And here's a partial list of the states and districts with venue.

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.

< The Accomplishments Of 2009 | Gibbs: KSM Will "Meet His Maker" >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Thanks, Jeralyn (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by BackFromOhio on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 01:29:51 PM EST
    for the thorough exegisis of the issue

    A venue question: (none / 0) (#1)
    by steviez314 on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 12:01:58 PM EST
    The mayor of Newbugh NY wants the trial there (he wants the $200M, and he's a Republican!).

    Since the flights from Boston probably got diverted from their original flight paths in the Newburgh/Albany district (remember, they used the Hudson River to navigate down to the WTC), would that venue be appropriate?

    Stewart AFB is also there, and could be used to house the defendants while they are not at trial. Is that reasonable for a criminal trial, or does that blur the line too much?

    I just think there is at least some symbolic value to have the trials near NYC, even if they are so worried about traffic and lost business that they don't want it in lower Manhattan.

    Newburgh is also in the Southern District, (none / 0) (#3)
    by allimom99 on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 12:42:59 PM EST
    if I'm not mistaken. There can be no change from the civilian courts now, politically OR logically.

    The perfect site (none / 0) (#2)
    by pcpablo on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 12:35:21 PM EST
    Governors Island NYC
    But that was too easy.

    no courthouse, no access (none / 0) (#6)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 01:00:52 PM EST
    There is no courthouse on Governors Island. And its accessible only by ferry, too dangerous for transporting prisoners from MCC every day.

    Except.. (none / 0) (#10)
    by pcpablo on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 01:54:42 PM EST
    They are offering $200 mill to any place that will take it, There are buildings on Governors Island that could be converted to a courtroom very cheaply, and a jail for a half dozen to a dozen prisoners is not that difficult to erect.  They did it at Gitmo for over 200.  I think they even have a brig, and an administrative courtroom.  They even have a complete, tho abandon hospital, I took x-rays there.
    The fact it can be reached only by Ferry and helicopter is in my opinion a big plus!

    I can't help but mention (none / 0) (#4)
    by allimom99 on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 12:48:08 PM EST
    that there should have been DETAILED meetings with Bloomberg prior to the announcement, including the considerations (expense, traffic, etc) that now require the administation to back down yet again. Sure would have avoided a lot of egg on face.

    Bloomberg initially agreed (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 12:57:40 PM EST
    he reversed course.

    It sounds like they really didn't sit down (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by nycstray on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 01:21:12 PM EST
    and go through all the 'details' before agreeing. I think in spirit, there isn't a problem trying alleged terrorists here, but the reality of this one . . . . Oy.

    Also, the NYPD has been getting smaller, not larger (and will be getting smaller still), so the strain on resources is/could be a pretty fair concern even if the Fed ponies up some bucks. It's not like we aren't going to be doing the usual elsewhere in the city where we will be needing security resources on a large scale. Pres visits, NYE in TS etc. How much do we tie up on one area for a long period of time?

    And then there's the quality of life argument . . . people do live there. And not just a few . . .


    Who is "We"? (none / 0) (#7)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 01:07:01 PM EST
    Axelrod says "we" haven't decided? Why does Axelrod even have anything to do with this?

    I can see the attorney general, the foreign policy advisor, etc, etc, etc, but the political advisor answering that question...and saying 'we'?


    Mastermind? (none / 0) (#11)
    by lentinel on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 04:07:48 PM EST

    Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is now referred to as the mastermind of 9/11.

    I had the impression that this designation belonged to Osama Bin Laden.

    No (none / 0) (#12)
    by jbindc on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 04:12:16 PM EST
    Not "now" - The 9/11 Commission named him, along with OSB, as the "mastermind of 9/11"

    Co-masterminds (none / 0) (#13)
    by lentinel on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 06:16:42 PM EST
    Your link says that "Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was an alleged member of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization, although he lived in Kuwait rather than Afghanistan, heading al-Qaeda's propaganda operations from sometime around 1999. The 9/11 Commission Report alleges that he was "the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks."

    So - is Mohammed's link to Bin Laden his "alleged" membership in Al Qaeda?

    Also - Obama said that we were attacked from Afghanistan as his rationale for sending 30,000 more American troops there.

    Didn't the commission say something about Kuwait?


    So? (none / 0) (#15)
    by jbindc on Mon Feb 01, 2010 at 08:50:59 AM EST
    If he lived in Kuwait and not Afghanistan, could he still not be a "co-mastermind"?

    Will the government be required to prove its case? (none / 0) (#14)
    by Yes2Truth on Sun Jan 31, 2010 at 09:35:20 PM EST

    What is the strategy for avoiding having to substantiate the claim that KSM, Osama, or any other foreigner plotted, planned, and carried out
    a conspiracy that involved, among other things, video footage of airplanes melting into the WTC buildings 1 and 2?  

    I didn't realize that al Qaeda had the resources and connections to alter videos and then get them shown on TV with only a 17 second delay between the time of the actual explosions in the WTC and what Murricans saw on the TeeTee that morgen.