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Retreat: White House plays jihadi musical chairs

By Michelle Malkin  •  January 28, 2010 09:37 PM

Photo credit: Urban Infidel.

President Obama’s rhetoric meets reality, again.

After pushing hard to try Gitmo detainees in New York City, the White House has now ordered the Justice Department to try and find other venues. They are still insisting on shipping suspected jihadis to federal courts on U.S. soil.

It’s going to be a long, pointless game of jihadi musical chairs:

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

The White House took the action hours after Mayor Bloomberg called Attorney General Eric Holder to say he would “prefer that they did it elsewhere.”

“It would be an inconvenience at the least, and probably that’s too mild a word for people that live in the neighborhood and businesses in the neighborhood,” Bloomberg told reporters.

“There are places that would be less expensive for the taxpayers and less disruptive for New York City.”

State leaders have railed against a plan to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Manhattan federal court since Holder proposed it last month.

The order to consider new venues does not change the White House’s position that Mohammed should be tried in civilian court.

“President Obama is still committed to trying Mohammed and four other terrorist detainees in federal court,” spokesman Bill Burton said Thursday.

As I said in November in a post on coming jihadi show trials:

If this White House thought Tea Party activists were an “angry mob,” wait until they see the backlash from 9/11 family members and their supporters nationwide. We’re not going to sit down and shut up about the reckless, security-undermining Obama 9/10 agenda and conflict-of-interest-ridden AG Eric Holder.

Note well:

“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.”

Meanwhile, a source told The News that Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly was the driving force behind the push by Manhattan business leaders to change the mayor’s mind on the trial.

Kelly made an “extremely powerful” speech to a roomful of 150 prominent business leaders about how disruptive and costly the trial would be for lower Manhattan at an annual police charity event on Jan. 13, the source said.

“What turned this around was when Ray made a presentation to the Police Foundation,” the source said. “Everyone went from thinking, ‘Justice will be served’ to thinking ‘We are screwed.'”


More on the rising political opposition to civilian show trials on both sides of the aisle from Allahpundit.

And more on the search for new jihadi musical chairs from the NYT:

Mr. Burton said the president agreed with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. that civilian trials were the right choice. “Currently our federal jails hold hundreds of convicted terrorists, and the president’s opinion has not changed on that,” he said.

Finding a site for a trial rejected by New York City could prove a challenge. Other Southern District locations appeared to pose problems. Some officials mentioned the Eastern District of Virginia, where terror trials have been held, or the unused Illinois prison where the administration has proposed to move detainees from Guantánamo.

A Justice Department spokesman, Dean Boyd, said Thursday night that there had been no decision to shift the trial from Manhattan. He said department officials were confident that the Southern District, where the department’s most experienced terrorism prosecutors work, could handle the case “while minimizing disruptions to the community to the greatest extent possible consistent with security needs.”

City officials have estimated security and logistical costs could total more than $200 million per year for a trial that could last several years, and some politicians have complained that a trial could make the city an even more attractive target for Al Qaeda.

Mr. Bloomberg, who in November had strongly backed Mr. Holder’s decision to bring the Sept. 11 defendants to the city they were accused of attacking, surprised administration officials on Wednesday by saying he had changed his mind. On Thursday, he elaborated, not closing the door to a Manhattan trial but expressing strong preference for another location.

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Categories: Ally McBeal approach, Eric Holder, Gitmo