With the Fort Hood tragedy and the president's pending Afghanistan decision rubbing American nerves raw, Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement that he intends to try alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammad in federal court in New York City -- versus at a military tribunal -- provoked harsh attacks from partisan critics.
"I think it's part of a whole package of the president not seeing the war on terror," said former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on "Fox News Sunday," who said terrorists should be tried as enemy combatants and not afforded the rights given to U.S. criminal court defendants.
"He has delayed inordinately in making this decision about the war strategy in Afghanistan," Giuliani said. "And finally, this whole thing with [alleged Fort Hood shooter] Major Hasan is another indication that he doesn't get it. He doesn't get the fact that there is an Islamic war against us."
Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., called it a "bad decision."
"To give them all of the extraordinary protections that you and I have as American citizens, and to give that to KSM, people who have mocked the American system, who want to do everything that they can do to destroy it, and now give them those extraordinary protections that we enjoy -- yes, I think that's a bad decision," Hoekstra said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Hoekstra also questioned the president's consistency.
"He hasn't really demonstrated to us as to why some are going to go into New York and be tried there and why others are going to go through military tribunals," he told "Face the Nation." He also questioned trying suspected terrorists in an American civilian court.
Hoekstra added the trial would make New York City a target.
"I think America is at risk continually from the threat from radical jihadists. We saw it in Fort Hood 10 days ago. To now say that New York is on a list -- I think New York has been on the list ever since 2001. We know that we were attacked in 1993. We know that we were attacked in 2001. I think that al Qaida and radical jihadists, if they could attack us again in New York, they would."
Sarah Palin Weighs in Via Facebook
On Friday, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin called the decision "absolutely horrible" on her Facebook page.
"The trial will afford Mohammed the opportunity to grandstand and make use of his time in front of the world media to rally his disgusting terrorist cohorts," she wrote.
"It is crucially important that Americans be made aware that the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks may walk away from this trial without receiving just punishment because of a 'hung jury' or from any variety of court room technicalities," Palin wrote.
But Democratic Vermont senator and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Pat Leahy disagreed that Mohammad could walk away.
"He will be convicted," Leahy said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday. "I think that Eric Holder, our attorney general, is right. I think the president is right in holding the trials of these murderers in New York City.
"What we're saying to the world is the United States acts out of strength, not out of fear. I know when I go around Vermont, people say, let's try criminals. Let's try criminals like KSM. Let's get them convicted. We're very much a law enforcement type of state here," Leahy said.
Another Democrat, Sen. Jack Reed from Rhode Island, said prosecuting the 9/11 terrorists in a military tribunal would play into their hands.
"All of these, particularly the sheikh, Mohammed, wants to be considered a holy warrior, a jihadist. And if we try him before military officers, that image of a soldier will be portrayed by the Islamic community. That's not the image we want. These are heinous murderers," Reed said on "Fox News Sunday."
And in a statement issued last Friday, current New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said New York was well-equipped to handle the trials.
"I have great confidence that the NYPD, with federal authorities, will handle security expertly. The NYPD is the best police department in the world and it has experience dealing with high-profile terrorism suspects and any logistical issues that may come up during the trials," Bloomberg's statement read.
The president's senior adviser David Axelrod defended the administration's decision.
"We believe that these folks should be tried in New York City, as you say, near where their heinous acts were conducted, in full view in our court system, which we believe in," Axelrod said on CNN's "State of the Union."
"And frankly it's been a long time in coming. A lot of these cases have been delayed for many, many years. And now, the people who suffered so much in that attack will get the justice they deserve."
White House Advisers Distance President From Decision
But Axelrod said the president was "informed" of the decision made by Attorney General Holder "in concert" with Secretary Robert Gates.
And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declined to state her personal opinion on the decision.
"The attorney general determined, after consulting with veteran prosecutors, that this was a case that appropriately can be brought in our federal courts. Other cases will be brought in the military commissions. I'm not going to second-guess the attorney general," Clinton said.