Attorney General Eric Holder: 'Close to a Decision' on 9/11 Trials

Obama administration weighing where, how to try Sept. 11 conspirators.

ByABC News
November 10, 2010, 2:30 PM

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2010— -- Attorney General Eric Holder said today that he is "close to a decision" on where and how to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

The development comes nearly a year Holder's proposal to try Mohammed and four other 9/11 conspirators in federal court in New York City sparked intense public and political outrage.

"The process is an ongoing one," Holder told reporters in Washington. "We are working to make a determination about the placement of that trial. I hope that whenever the decision is, it is one that will be based on the merits and what is best for the case and justice in that case."

In November 2009, Holder told a Senate panel that trying Mohammed and four other high-profile detainees in federal, civilian court was a "tough call" but that he believed the U.S. court system -- not a military tribunal -- could render justice best.

"Our institutions are strong, our infrastructure is sturdy, our resolve is firm and our people are ready," he said at the time.

Holder did not indicate exactly which U.S. courts would hear the case, although New York City became the Obama administration's top pick.

The decision drew sharp criticism from Republicans, who have said the five 9/11 plotters, currently being held at the U.S. military's Guantanamo Bay detention center, should be treated as enemy combatants and tried in military courts not on U.S. soil.

New York City officials, who initially backed Holder, later became wary of the plan because of cost and security concerns, saying in January that the trial should be held elsewhere and that it probably would be.

"It would be phenomenally expensive and it is very disruptive to people who live in the area and businesses in the area," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said then of his conversations with Obama administration officials. "It would be better to do it elsewhere if they could find a venue."