The week after domestic terrorist Nidal Hassan went on a shooting spree at Fort Hood, Attorney General Eric Holder announced his decision to send five 9/11 terrorists to New York to face trial in a civilian federal court.
The Fort Hood massacre was the most serious act of domestic terror since 9/11. Why give the similarly inspired the incentive to make the pilgrimage to New York and act on their rage? This well-meaning but misguided decision by the Obama administration could hold deadly consequences for New York.
Holder has vigorously defended his decision and argues that to try these terrorists in a civilian court is the “right” thing. Trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his fellow terrorists yards away from Ground Zero might provide a civics lesson for the world, but it displays a reckless disregard for common sense, with no discernible benefit and the risk of grievous harm.
Let me be clear about something: I am confident that the U.S. attorney and his team of prosecutors will do a spectacular job of upholding the high standards of the Justice Department, and they will get these guys convicted. But getting them convicted is not the sole measure of success. The key issue here is our national security — more specifically, the security of all New Yorkers.
If we are at war, as the attorney general affirmed this week, we have to treat it like a war. War criminals are not tried in civilian courts. The 9/11 conspirators were originally charged by a military commission, a congressionally approved system which is a safe and fair means of trying enemy war criminals, be they members of traditional militaries or non-state terrorists. To move these terrorists into the civilian justice system is to give them legal rope that they intend to hang us with.
The discovery process required by a civilian trial could compromise the critical intelligence we have gained since 9/11. Andrew McCarthy, former assistant United States attorney for the Southern District of New York recently explained that in a military trial, only lawyers with the right security clearances have access to intelligence secrets. But the rules are different in a civilian trial, where the terrorists can use their constitutional “right” to act as their own counsel and demand to see the legal discovery. We would be forced to hand our secrets to our enemies on a platter.
In voicing his support for a New York trial, Mayor Bloomberg has graciously provided cover for what was surely a unilateral decision of the administration. The mayor correctly asserted that the NYPD can handle the additional security demands. Commissioner Ray Kelly has shaped New York’s police force into the best law enforcement agency in the world, as well as the leading counterterrorism and security organization.
But just because we are ready for those who wish us harm does not mean we should hang a piece of fly paper out for them just blocks from Ground Zero. Drawing terrorists out into the open in Iraq and Afghanistan makes strategic and tactical sense, but not here in the Big Apple. While the NYPD can reduce risk, they cannot eliminate it.
In late 2008, Commissioner Kelly warned a congressional commission: “Everything we know about al-Qaeda tells us they will try to hit us again, possibly next time with a weapon of mass destruction. We must do everything in our power to stop them before it is too late.” Holding this trial in New York is like encouraging them to try again. For the sake of all who lost loved ones on 9/11, and for the safety of our wonderful city, New Yorkers must be vocal advocates of the NIMBY philosophy: Not In My Back Yard!
NIMBY-ism was given public voice just this week at a press conference held by an organization called the 911 Never Forget Coalition. A diverse group of victims, family members, first responders, active and reserve members of the military, veterans, and concerned Americans, they stand resolute against Holder’s decision. At the conference, they announced that they will hold a large rally in New York City on December 9. Who will stand with them?