US senator says no way to $200 million for 9/11 trial security

February 24, 2010

Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins rarely raises her voice to emphasize a point but on Wednesday she spoke forcefully against spending some $200 million on security for the trials of the five men accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, including the self-professed mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

“It’s the safe assumption that Congress is not going to appropriate $200 million for the trials of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City,” Collins told Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano during a hearing on the department’s fiscal 2011 budget.

USA/“It is not going to happen,” she said, adding that some of the money would be better spent on other things, such as resources for the U.S. Coast Guard.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had decided last November to hold the criminal trials of the five individuals in lower Manhattan but New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg reversed his support of doing so because he feared it would cause a virtual lockdown in that part of town, hurting business and possibly costing $200 million for security.

As a result, the Obama administration has been forced to reconsider where to hold the trials and even weigh whether it would be better to prosecute the five individuals in a special military commission trial rather than in a criminal court.

Napolitano said she had not been a part of those renewed discussions but said President Barack Obama expects trials of terrorism suspects in the United States. (Republicans have pressed to hold the trials at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.)

“If the trials are moved from New York City, nonetheless there will be costs associated with those trials,” she said. Napolitano also said that no matter where the trials are held, a security assessment will be required which would dictate the costs.

When Collins asserted that costs would be dramatically less if the trials were held on a military base, Napolitano declined to concede the point.

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Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Napolitano and Holder during a task force meeting.)

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