* White House studying series of options
* Taking into account security concerns, cost factor
* Obama not ruling out criminal trial in Manhattan
By Ross Colvin and Jeremy Pelofsky
WASHINGTON, Feb 12 U.S. President Barack Obama
is taking a more direct role in the decision where to try
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-professed mastermind of the
Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the White House said on Friday.
The Obama administration faces growing opposition from
Democratic and Republican lawmakers to plans to try Mohammed
and four others in a federal criminal court in lower Manhattan.
New York City officials also oppose the idea.
A bipartisan group of senators unveiled legislation last
week aimed at cutting off funding for the criminal trials,
arguing that Mohammed and his fellow accused did not deserve
full constitutional rights and could use the civilian trials to
espouse their anti-American views.
"Obviously there are efforts on Capitol Hill through
legislation to restrict either the type of, or the venue of, a
trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-conspirators,"
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.
"So, since this effort has moved from strictly a Justice
Department decision to something that's in the legislative
arena, the White House and by definition the president are
involved," he said.
The move by the group of senators would effectively force
the prosecutions into revamped military commissions.
Gibbs would not be drawn on whether military commissions
were an option being studied by the White House. "There are a
series of things that are being looked at," he said.
Obama administration officials have stressed they prefer
prosecuting the 9/11 suspects in criminal courts, but they have
never definitively ruled out the option of shifting them back
to military commission trials.
But the administration moved last month to dismiss the
military commission charges pending against the five men.
Mohammed and his four alleged co-conspirators are being held at
the Guantanamo Bay U.S. military prison.
Obama has said lower Manhattan is still an option for the
criminal trials, even though Attorney General Eric Holder has
been searching for other possible venues for the prosecutions.
Gibbs said the administration would take into account the
security, logistical and cost concerns raised by New York City
when making a final decision.
The Obama administration has maintained that most foreign
terrorism suspects have been prosecuted successfully in federal
(Editing by Peter Cooney)