WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2010 -- The Obama administration had to face stark political reality: New York officials were saying no to a plan to trial alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other accused al Qaeda operatives in Manhattan.
The plan to try Mohammed and the other accused al Qaeda members in New York City is all but dead pending an official announcement, and other options are being actively pursued, according to multiple Obama administration and law enforcement sources.
No final decisions have been made on a new location for the trial, but the Obama administration appears to be starting from scratch.
The officials -- some of whom once backed the New York City trial idea -- now cite the cost it would take to try the case and fear.
"Every time there is a loud noise during the two years of those trials, it's going to frighten people," said New York Gov. David Patterson, a Democrat. "I think New Yorkers have been through enough."
"I would prefer if it was done elsewhere," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, on Friday. "It would be phenomenally expensive, and it is very disruptive to people who live in the area and [to] businesses in the area."
The administration -- caught flat footed by the New York dissent -- has now begun to look for other venues, a plan B.
Among the locations in New York State that might be considered are West Point, the Stewart Air National Guard base or the new, state-of-the-art courthouse in Newburgh -- a city 60 miles north of New York that is facing economic challenges.
Newburgh Mayor Nicholas Valentine told Reuters that the city, with the help of federal dollars, could benefit from the hordes of lawyers, journalists and others who would flock to the city to attend the trial.
"For a city like Newburgh, it could not only put us on the map, but it could benefit us for many, many years to come," Valentine told The Associated Press. "Maybe we'll truly be looked at as the sixth borough of New York."
Outside out of New York State, other possibilities include Alexandria, Va., where al Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui was tried, or the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C. -- though that could pose some of the same security issues as New York because the courthouse is only blocks from the capitol.
But one thing seems increasingly clear: The trial won't happen in New York.
New York's Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who like Bloomberg initially supported the idea of trying the suspects near the scene of the crime, has all but pronounced the plan dead.
"I think it's unlikely," he said.
In addition to Patterson, there has been a chorus of the administration's New York Democratic allies saying no -- including both of the state's senators.
"There will be an increase in threat to New York if they are located here," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said "Based on that advice, I really believe it, the trials should be moved"
"They have made no commitments yet," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., but to me it's pretty obvious that they cannot have these trials here in New York."