I have to say that I'm one of those New Yorkers who'd rather see the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed take place someplace other than downtown New York City. I'm not afraid of Al Qaeda attempting any dramatic, Tom Clancy-style jailbreak or some other kind of terror attack to disrupt the trial, but I'm also not looking forward to the security theater of the absurd that would inevitably accompany the trial. I still remember the massive disruptions caused by security for the 2004 Republican National Convention, and I'm certain the people arrested and detained for simply being on the wrong street when the NYPD dropped the net remember them even more clearly. That being said, I am in favor of the trial being held in the United States, at an easily controlled venue like Governor's Island (they can just hold off on building the damn water park out there). The most critical point, for me at least, is that the trial be open and accessible to the press and other observers. Otherwise, they might as well hold the damn thing at Gitmo and send us the occasional Twitter update to let us know how it's going.
One thing I've found curious about various city officials' objections to holding the trial downtown is their continued insistence that the trial will take years:
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly began planning and concluded that it would cost about $215 million for the first year and $200 million in subsequent years to provide security, according to Mr. Browne. The main cost was overtime, not just at the site but all around the city to cope with an anticipated rise in threats.
I'm not at all sure how the trial could take that long. I'm all for due process, hell, that's why I want these guys tried in the States. Do we have so much evidence against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-conspirators that we need that long to build our case? Are they figuring in the time his defense will need to prepare their case? If so, does that mean he hasn't yet had access to counsel? That seems unlikely, since the government claims to have already held pre-trial hearings down at Guantanamo Bay. Perhaps the transfer to a civilian court requires him to acquire new counsel, since to this point he has had military representation? Have the conditions at Guantanamo been so heinous that they anticipate prisoners who were held there will have massive grounds for endless appeals? I honestly don't know. Feel free to enlighten me if you do.
Their claim that the trial will take years fascinates me because I've long suspected that conservatives' claim that Guantanamo prisoners are too dangerous to hold in United States supermax prisons isn't based on any rational assessment of Al Qaeda's operational capabilities but rather their certainty that once these prisoners are on American soil, some judge, somewhere, is going to give them access to civilian counsel and then we're going to find out what really went down at Guantanamo. I'm not sure anyone in the government from either party wants to see that happen. At this point, I don't think the Obama administration can back off from holding the trials in the States - the key will be whether or not the trial is open to the public, or at the very least reporters. A former CIA official claims that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is nearly brain-dead after being waterboarded 183 times in one month. Do you think anyone in the Obama administration wants that shown on TV?