The White House said on Friday afternoon that a decision on where try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other 9/11 conspirators is still weeks away -- but didn't explicitly deny reports that the administration has settled on a military tribunal.
"The White House is continuing to review what the available options are that would bring the 9/11 detainees to justice," an administration official emailed in a statement. "No decision has been made, and we do not expect a decision for weeks as the review process is ongoing."
But aides at the Department of Justice and in the administration concede privately that the options for a federal trial are growing increasingly limited. All potential venues have serious complications, especially in the form of fierce local opposition. The White House has explored hosting criminal prosecutions in Pennsylvania and Virginia, in addition to New York (the three states where the 9/11 attacks transpired). But in each of those cases, either local officials or congressional representatives have spoken out against bringing suspected terrorists onto their soil. Technically, state lawmakers don't have purview over such a decision. But with money and manpower needed to secure locations, the administration is concerned that it can't practically put together a trial without across-the-board cooperation.
And so, military tribunals -- which Attorney General Eric Holder has said for weeks remain on the table -- have come under serious consideration and seem likely to be the end result for the 9/11 trials.
A The Washington Post report on Thursday evening that the White House has already put the wheels in motion to hold military trials for the suspected terrorist, spurred an intense amount of pushback from human rights activists and military leaders. In a conference call with reporters on Friday, Major General William L. Nash (Ret.), declared that it was "not the time to be scared" into treating these suspected terrorists to a military court hearing.
"I would be deeply saddened if this thing would be reversed... It would give aid to our enemies. It would lessen our relationship with allies who have been extremely happy with the reversal of course we have taken," he said. "This is not the time to accommodate those who have led this country under fear for eight years, and it's time to do the right thing and persevere through."
Nash was seconded by Elisa Massimino, CEO of the organization Human Rights First. "To put these cases in military commissions reinforces the narrative of Al-Qaeda, that it is a global army, and that KSM is a warrior in that army," Massimino said. "And that goes directly against the strategy that is laid out by Gen. [David] Petraeus and others in the counterinsurgency manual."