It seemed like a no-brainer to me when the Department of Justice announced in November that it planned to move the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-conspirators from the Military Commissions at Guantanamo Bay to federal court in New York City.
KSM of course is the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks, perhaps the one who decided the World Trade Center shouldn't represent our skyline anymore. So it seemed only appropriate that he would be tried here, where the crime took place. It seemed like an honor, a fitting tribute to our loss and recovery. Sending the trial to New York City was not only a vote of confidence in the city's capacity to manage the logistics of a terrorism trial, but also a recognition of the special interest the city has in the proceedings and outcome of this particular trial.
But apparently our leaders don't think New York can handle it.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the trial would cost too much money. Community representatives said it would be too disruptive. Some said we don't need to "relive" the 9/11 attacks. Senator Charles Schumer pronounced it "obvious" that the trial should not be held here.
Maybe they are right. Maybe we should forget about our lauded grit and resilience and leave the prosecution of the men who attacked our city to the federal government - or better yet, let the military do it. True, the military has never done anything like this before, but I'm sure it can figure out how to put on a complex conspiracy case. It's not really any of our concern, is it? New Yorkers don't need to have any say in the trial and sentencing of the people who evidently brought such a tragedy to our doorsteps.
The federal court in lower Manhattan has been the site of many legendary trials, cases involving national security and high profile defendants. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were tried there. The 1993 World Trade Center bombers were tried there. Just yesterday, the woman the NY Daily News calls "Lady Al Qaeda" was convicted in that court. But the architects of 9/11 - that's too much for our city.
Come on, New Yorkers! Is that really the message we want to send to the world?
We are rightfully proud of the way city leaders, emergency personnel, public workers and the whole community responded to the 9/11 attack and its aftermath. I think the rest of the country is proud of New York for that too. Giuliani ran practically an entire presidential campaign on that pride. (SNL made fun, but come on, we were eating it up.)
Is it not our responsibility, and our right, to bring those who committed that crime to justice?
Certainly, Police Commissioner Kelly's proposal for security--and the costs of that security--was alarming. But surely that was really the opening bid in a negotiation for a reasonably cautious and effective plan. By holding the trial in Manhattan, New Yorkers would have taken on a burden - a burden of security, of expense, of media frenzy, and probably of significant inconvenience. But of course these are burdens New Yorkers take on by being in New York. If you don't like that, move to Wyoming.
I say, bring it. New York City can handle it.