Feinstein, in Letter About KSM Trial, Suggests Follow-Ups to Christmas Attack Are Possible
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has released a letter she sent to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder asking them to reconsider trying Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 attacks, in Manhattan. Significantly, Feinstein urged Obama and Holder to move “his trial to a less prominent, less costly, and equally secure location” — not abandon KSM’s civilian trial and indict him in a military commission, as several prominent Republicans want.
But Feinstein made a more alarming argument to Obama and Holder. “Without getting into classified details, I believe we should view the attempted Christmas Day plot as a continuation, not an end, of plots to strike the United States by al-Qa’ida and its affiliates,” Feinstein wrote. That sounds a lot like Feinstein has seen intelligence suggesting that there are active plans under way by al-Qaeda or its franchises to hit the U.S. domestically.
Feinstein’s full letter is after the jump.
January 29, 2010
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I urge you to reconsider the decision to bring 9/11 terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to justice in New York City.
First, the concerns of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other local government officials should be taken seriously. The mayor’s concerns, raised earlier this week in a departure from his initial views, focused on the costs associated with the trial and the burdens on residents and businesses in Lower Manhattan. New York City could incur security costs of more than $200 million annually on security for the trial; Mayor Bloomberg cited a figure this week as high as a billion dollars overall. While the federal courthouse planned for use is extremely secure, the additional precautions that would be necessary to protect the surrounding areas could overburden law enforcement and prove an unnecessary burden on federal, state, and local governments. Reportedly, local police estimate that more than 2,000 checkpoints would need to be installed around Lower Manhattan for trial security.
Second, the terrorist threat to the United States remains high. Without getting into classified details, I believe we should view the attempted Christmas Day plot as a continuation, not an end, of plots to strike the United States by al-Qa’ida and its affiliates. Moreover, New York City has been a high-priority target since at least the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. The trial of the most significant terrorist in custody would add to the threat.
To be clear, I have great respect for the professionalism and sophistication of the intelligence and national security capabilities of both the federal government and the New York Police Department. Our adversaries are capable and adaptive, however, and I believe holding this trial in Manhattan makes their interest in a terrorist attack even stronger.
Third, setting the trial in New York City, blocks away from Ground Zero of the 9/11 attacks, would only heighten media and public attention. We know from his conduct during pre-trial proceedings at Guantanamo that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is seeking to turn the trial into a venue for spreading his twisted views. We do not need to allow him to spew hatred to a larger audience and attempt to radicalize more future terrorists.
The bottom line is that decisions over the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should be made with consideration of the views of local governments, the security involved, and the costs. You have the flexibility to move this trial to a less prominent, less costly, and equally secure location. In my view, trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City presents an avoidable danger, very large costs, and undue burdens on the city.
Thank you for considering my views. I look forward to continuing to work with you on this and many other issues.
cc: The Honorable Eric Holder, Attorney General
Members, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence