Obama: 9/11 mastermind faces ‘the most exacting demands of justice’WASHINGTON — Khalid Sheik Mohammed — the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks — and four co-defendants will be tried in federal court in New York instead of a military commission, a federal official said Friday morning.
The long-awaited decision, part of President Obama’s quest to close the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba,is expected to be formally announced by the Justice Department later Friday. The federal official spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement was not yet official
The closely-held decision has been the subject of intense speculation, and comes on the same day that White House counsel Gregory B. Craig, a key manager of Obama’s Guantanamo Bay policy, is expected to announce his resignation.
Mohammed and the four alleged co-conspirators in the 9/11 plot had been facing capital charges in a military commission at Guantanamo Bay. The administration requested a series of suspensions in those proceedings while officials decided on the best forum for prosecution. But the government assured military judges that they would make a final determination by Nov. 16.The decision will not affect the vast majority of the 215 detainees who remain at Guantanamo Bay, according to sources briefed on the matter.
Administration officials expect that up to 40 of the detainees will ultimately be tried in either federal court or military commissions. Approximately 90 others have been cleared for repatriation or resettlement in a third country, according to an administration official. And that leaves up to 75 individuals remaining at Guantanamo who could continue to be held under the laws of war because they are deemed too dangerous to release but cannot be prosecuted because of evidentiary issues and limits on the use of classified material.
The announcement Friday will end months of intense internal jockeying among federal prosecutors in New York and Virginia, and between military and federal prosecutors, for the right to prosecute the high-value detainees held at the military prison. Top among them is KSM, as Mohammed is widely known.Holder will also announce that a major suspect in the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, will face justice before a military commission, as will a handful of other detainees to be identified at the same announcement, the official said.
It was not immediately clear where commission-bound detainees like al-Nashiri might be sent, but a military brig in South Carolina has been high on the list of considered sites.
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Craig will be replaced by Bob Bauer, a prominent Democratic lawyer who is Obama’s personal attorney.