Sunday, January 31, 2010

A problem of their own creation

Now that President Obama's administration is considering moving the Sept. 11 trial away from a courthouse in Manhattan, the question is: Where to?

Legally, the Justice Department could choose a variety of locations in which to bring an indictment. There is no requirement that the trials of professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others be held in the places where the most victims died, experts said.

Politically, though, the administration faces a bigger challenge.

Though the Justice Department has yet to publicly back down from its plan to try the suspects in New York City, officials have acknowledged that other sites are under consideration. But a growing number of lawmakers in the president's own party say they would rather not have the proceedings in their states.

Opponents include Democrats such as Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, who was among five lawmakers last week who urged Attorney General Eric Holder to reverse his decision to try Mohammed and other conspirators in civilian courts, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who said a local trial would be too disruptive, whether in Manhattan or upstate.

The same held true for top Democrats in Pennsylvania, talked about by some as a potential site because of the crash of hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 near Shanksville, Pa.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg "has given good reasons why the trial should not be held in New York City and that same reasoning would apply for Pennsylvania as well," said U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter. Bloomberg has cited the costs of securing the Manhattan courthouse as an impediment to hosting the trial.

A congressional aide said Saturday that the Obama administration is proposing a $200 million fund to help pay for security costs in cities hosting the trials, to be included in the president's budget being released Monday. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because the budget hasn't been announced.

A spokesman for Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said Saturday that the proposed $200 million would help assuage some of the governor's concerns about cost, but not safety.

I enjoy it when politicians cause themselves major political problems by making earlier stupid unnecessary promises for short term political advantage.

Of course, Obama's first reaction was to deny that there would be any security problems. And, his second reaction was to throw $200 million of our tax dollars at his political problem.

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