White House weighs 'multiple options' on Mohammed trial

February 13, 2010|By Christi Parsons | Tribune Newspapers


The Obama administration is considering "multiple options" for trying the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, as local officials and some members of Congress resist the current Department of Justice plan for a civilian trial in New York.

But administration officials are not saying whether Khalid Sheikh Mohammed could be tried before a military commission, or at the Illinois prison where they plan to move other detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or at some other unnamed site.

Administration officials said last month that the White House was involved in discussions about the trial, as Congress was actively considering precluding options for trying Mohammed and the other detainees in New York.

"The president wants to see that they are brought to swift and certain justice," an administration official told reporters Friday morning, adding that advisers to the president were not yet weighing in on the options publicly.

In an interview with The Washington Post published Friday, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. declined to rule out the possibility that the trial could be shifted from federal court to a military commission, though he indicated that that was not his preference.

Holder has said in the past that he believes a fair trial for Mohammed could be held before a military commission.

The Obama administration is pressing forward with plans to retrofit a near-empty state prison in Thomson, Ill., to accommodate detainees at Guantanamo.

The White House has included money in its proposed fiscal 2011 budget to purchase and modify the Thomson Correctional Center, which is near the Mississippi River.

The proposed super-maximum-security prison could hold all the detainees not moved to the federal system or sent overseas, and it could also house military commission trials.

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