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Former AG Mukasey critical of decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in NY

MICHAEL MUKASEY

MICHAEL MUKASEY

The blog Main Justice reports:

Former Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey on Friday criticized the Obama administration’s decision to prosecute a group of terrorism suspects accused in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in federal court, warning of safety risks to Americans and the possibility that national security information could be aired in civilian proceedings.

His speech to the conservative Federalist Society — of which he is a member — came hours after Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed “mastermind” of the attacks, and four other men accused in the plot would face charges in the Southern District of New York.

Mukasey, echoing concerns he outlined in a recent piece in The Wall Street Journal, said granting the suspects access to civilian courts would present a “cornucopia [of intelligence] for those still at large and a circus for those in custody.”

Mukasey, who supports trying terrorism suspects in military commissions at Guantanamo, said KSM will be “a virtually totemic figure” in prison, potentially radicalizing others. Mukasey said he wasn’t worried about the suspects breaking free but feared holding them in New York would make the city a renewed target for attack.

“The question is whether the city will become the focus of more mischief, more murder,” said Mukasey, who presided over the 1995 trial in New York of the “blind sheik” Omar Abdel Rahman, who was implicated in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and convicted for plotting to blow up New York City landmarks.

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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.