U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder arrived in New York City today to meet with federal prosecutors, the New York City police commissioner and other key officials to prepare for the upcoming Sept. 11 terror trials, ABC News has learned.
The meeting takes place as news that a federal grand jury has begun to hear evidence in the Sept. 11 terror trials scheduled for Manhattan, ABC News has learned.
Following the issuance of an indictment, which is widely expected, and the arrival of the suspects, including 911 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a timetable for the trials would be set.
When the suspects will arrive remains uncertain. The Justice Department has to notify Congress 45 days in advance before moving the suspects from the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba to the U.S. Congressional sources said notification has not yet happened, so the 45 day clock has not yet started ticking.
ABC News has also learned that the New York City Police Department, working with the FBI, U.S. marshals and intelligence agencies assisting, is preparing a detailed security package for the next three years. That security package is believed to be one of the elements Holder is in New York to discuss.
Other elements of trial preparation underway include determining how to secure and make available to the defense classified information, design a prosecution that does not include evidence tainted by torture and details right down to the size of the courtroom and overflow rooms that may be needed to accommodate the expected intense public interest in the case.
Elements of the security plan are already in effect, and it is expected to draw heavily from the resources of the counter terrorism and intelligence divisions that the NYPD beefed up after the 9/11 attacks, committing more than 1,000 officers and analysts to the effort. The security plans also contains details like sniper teams, heavy weapons deployments, barricades, traffic diversions and the use of undercover officers and surveillance measures.
The U.S. attorney and the FBI will neither confirm nor deny the grand jury is sitting. That information was first reported by Channel Four, NBC's local affiliate in New York. New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly stated Tuesday that the security plan will cost far more than the $75 million that Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., presented at a Senate hearing last month.
Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne told ABC News, "That $75 million was a preliminary, back of the envelope estimate. It is expected to cost significantly more."
The security and planning session included federal prosecutors from the Eastern District of Virginia and the Southern District of New York. It took place at the Federal Courthouse at 500 Pearl St., in lower Manhattan.
"The bottom line is these are federal terror cases that will bring to justice, in federal court, the evil men behind the attack on our nation on 9-11," Schumer said today. " It's common sense that the federal government pay for security costs because these trials will place a significant burden on the NYPD and the city to keep lower Manhattan safe and secure. Additionally, the tools and resources needed for a trial of this scale are enormous. Attorney General Holder told me he will press to fully reimburse the city's security expenses and I will hold the Administration's feet to the fire to do just that – no matter what the cost."
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other terror suspects are currently being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The other terror suspects expected to be sent to New York include Walid bin Attas, accused of being selected as a hijacker but never made it to the mission; Ramzi Binalshibh who allegedly applied for flight training in Florida, but never entered the U.S; Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi who is accused of helping to fund to the hijackers; and Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, a nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who is accused of providing support to the hijackers.
Critics of the plan to hold public trials in New York charge that the Obama administration is giving Mohammed and other accused terrorists a pulpit to expound on their jihadist ideology.
In recent days former Vice President Dick Cheney has said that trying Mohammed in New York will make him "as important or more important than Osama bin Laden."
ABC News Jason Ryan contributed to this report