By Allan Lengel
Eric Holder Jr./ticklethewire.com file photo
WASHINGTON – Because Congress has blocked Gitmo detainees from being prosecuted in civilian court, Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. said Monday that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others will stand trial in a military court in Gitmo.
The announcement marked a sharp reversal of his announcement in November 2009 that the men would be prosecuted in federal court in New York.
“Unfortunately, since I made that decision, Members of Congress have intervened and imposed restrictions blocking the administration from bringing any Guantanamo detainees to trial in the United States, regardless of the venue,” he said in a statement. “As the President has said, those unwise and unwarranted restrictions undermine our counterterrorism efforts and could harm our national security.”
“After thoroughly studying the case, it became clear to me that the best venue for prosecution was in federal court. I stand by that decision today.
“As the indictment unsealed today reveals, we were prepared to bring a powerful case against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-conspirators – one of the most well-researched and documented cases I have ever seen in my decades of experience as a prosecutor.
“We had carefully evaluated the evidence and concluded that we could prove the defendants’ guilt while adhering to the bedrock traditions and values of our laws. We had consulted extensively with the intelligence community and developed detailed plans for handling classified evidence.
“Had this case proceeded in Manhattan or in an alternative venue in the United States, as I seriously explored in the past year, I am confident that our justice system would have performed with the same distinction that has been its hallmark for over two hundred years.
“Decisions about who, where and how to prosecute have always been – and must remain – the responsibility of the executive branch. Members of Congress simply do not have access to the evidence and other information necessary to make prosecution judgments. Yet they have taken one of the nation’s most tested counterterrorism tools off the table and tied our hands in a way that could have serious ramifications. We will continue to seek to repeal those restrictions.”
(Read more of his statement)
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