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Breaking News: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to be tried by Military Commission

The New York Times is reporting:

In a major reversal, the Obama administration has decided to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for his role in the attacks of Sept. 11 before a military commission at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and not in a civilian courtroom.Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is expected to announce on Monday afternoon that Mr. Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the attacks, and four other accused conspirators will face charges before a panel of military officers, a law enforcement official said. The Justice Department has scheduled a press conference for 2 p.m. Eastern time.

Mr. Holder, who had wanted to prosecute Mr. Mohammed before a regular civilian court in New York City, changed his mind after Congress imposed a series of restrictions barring the transfer of Guantánamo detainees into the United States, making such a trial impossible for now, the official said.

Mr. Mohammed and the accused conspirators were charged before a military commission at Guantánamo Bay late in the Bush administration, and had given signs that they were preparing to plead guilty. But their trial was cut short in January 2009 when President Obama, as one of his first moves after his inauguration, froze all tribunal proceedings at Guantánamo to launch a review of the counter-terrorism policies he inherited from former President George W. Bush.

The administration eventually decided to prosecute some terrorism suspects in civilian courts, but to keep using a revised form of tribunals for others. Mr. Obama placed Mr. Holder in charge of deciding where each detainee should be tried.

In November 2009, Mr. Holder announced that he had decided to bring Mr. Mohammed to New York City for a trial in a federal civilian court. But those plans quickly collapsed because of resistance by local officials, who balked at the prospect of potentially costly and disruptive security arrangements, and amid a wave of fear that followed the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner on Dec. 25, 2009.

The Obama administration announced that it was studying other options for a Sept. 11 trial, including other civilian courts in less populated areas. But before it reached any decision, Congress moved to impose steep new restrictions on transferring any detainees from Guantánamo Bay onto United States soil, making such a trial impossible.

Not sure this is a good idea.

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.