Friday, January 29, 2010


This won't stop the right-wing banshees from howling, but it's a concession:

The White House ordered the Justice Department Thursday night to consider other places to try the 9/11 terror suspects after a wave of opposition to holding the trial in lower Manhattan.

The dramatic turnabout came hours after Mayor Bloomberg said he would "prefer that they did it elsewhere" and then spoke to Attorney General Eric Holder....

There were two issues here. One was money:

Estimates put the cost of a multiyear terror trial in lower Manhattan at about $200 million a year. Leaders have suggested other venues for the trial, such as the Military Academy at West Point or Stewart Air National Guard Base in upstate Newburgh.

The federal government has said they would reimburse the city for the costs, most of which cover overtime for increased security, but they won't reimburse business owners for lost revenue during the chaos, said Steven Spinola, president of the heavyweight business group Real Estate Board of New York.

"Is the federal government going to give the city $1 billion plus the cost of propping up businesses? I don't think so," Spinola said.

Of course, as James Gordon Meek of the Daily News very sensibly pointed out yesterday,

It's worth noting here that the hundreds, if not thousands, of extra federal prosecutors, defense lawyers, cops, U.S. Marshals, FBI agents and international news media who will prosecute, defend, protect or cover the biggest terror trial in history will be spending millions in hotels, eateries, bars and shops. You might even argue they'll surely more than offset any losses from the added inconveniences.

Yeah, you might.

But my favorite quote from the Real Estate Board's Spinola was in yesterday's Times:

"I believe it would destroy the economy in Lower Manhattan," said Steve Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, which represents property owners.

Uh, dude? The 9/11 attacks didn't "destroy the economy in Lower Manhattan." Basically what you're saying is that trial this would have been worse than 9/11. Um, really?

The other issue, of course, is security:

Raymond W. Kelly, the city's police commissioner, ... has also expressed alarm over the impact of the trial on the Police Department, which has shrunk significantly since Mr. Bloomberg took office in 2002. Providing security for the court case, he has told city officials, would "suck the oxygen" from the department....

In response to that, I'll quote Roy Edroso:

In their zeal to beat up President Obama on this issue, the trial-movers seem not to notice that they are loudly proclaiming to the world that the federal prosecution of terrorists accused of attacking New York is something New York itself is inadequate to handle. Well, this whole "capital of the world" thing was getting a little old, anyway.


In the last post on this blog, Aimai expressed her outrage at reports that the White House had no plan for salvaging the health care bill in the event of a Scott Brown victory. And that reminded me of a post I wrote in November, when the plan for the 9/11 trial was announced:

Now, would you bet the rent money that Obama's actually going to manage to pull this off? Do you really believe he can't be forced to back down on this?

I have serious doubts -- and this is what drives me crazy about Obama. He takes bold steps -- and then he doesn't have a plan for overcoming serious roadblocks. That's where he is on closing Guantanamo. That's where he seems to be ... on health care -- it's not at all certain that reform is going to leap the Lieberman/Nelson/Snowe/Stupak/etc. roadblocks regarding abortion and the public option. Is he ready for the firestorm in this case? Is he going to be able to tough it out?

Well, guess what?

[An] insider told the Daily News that Justice officials have been caught off guard by the fiery opposition in New York.

"They're in a tizzy at Justice over Bloomberg," a federal law enforcement official said. "It's like a half-baked souffle -- the plan is collapsing."

Face, meet palm.


I bet the folks in the White House still don't have a plan for neutralizing opposition to holding the trial wherever they now decide to hold it. The hissyfits aren't going to die down. I'd like to think Team Obama has a learning curve on this, but I doubt it.

What's infuriating about this is that the trial was going to be held in a place that couldn't possibly be more of a target than it already is. Jihadist terrorists are dangerous, but they're simple-minded; they keep going back to the same very limited MOs. Blow up a plane. Attack a military target. Attack a financial capital. They're so ploddingly predictable. They don't want to attack some random mall in East Overshoe, Indiana, even though a series of random attacks like that would probably be more unsettling to America. Manhattan is always maximally targeted, and East Overshoe isn't. Yet now we're going to try to move this trial to East Overshoe.

(And then, ultimately, to a military base overseas, because the Obama administration won't be able to withstand the anger about an East Overshoe trial.)


Meanwhile, I see that there are calls in certain right-wing precincts for an impeachment of Eric Holder. The reason (if that's the right word) is the decision to hold a civil trial of the underpants bomber, which, we're told, "disarms our country and objectively arms our enemies." I'm sure the wingers are planning to use that notion as a rallying cry for the fall campaign -- and they're going to toss the 9/11 trial into the mix. Or maybe we'll just see impeachment as the first move of a GOP House if the Republicans seize control in 2010 -- especially if the Democrats' majority in the Senate depends on Joe Lieberman (or Lieberman and Harold Ford).


UPDATE: Zandar points out this Glenn Greenwald tweet:

There's no reason KSM trial has to be in NYC if there are good reason for it not to be - the key is that there be a real trial - not where

True -- except that moving the trial out of NYC doesn't have the slightest chance of reducing the right's anti-Obama theatrical anger on this. It's like health care. The only acceptable outcome is total capitulation to the GOP, which means military trials under Bush rules. And that means unmodified Bush rules -- after several fallbacks, the Obama administration will probably fold and go along with a military tribunal, but try to make it more like jurisprudence in a civilized nation. And even that will be deemed unacceptable by the GOP.

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