WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Advisers to President Barack Obama are close to recommending that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-professed mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks, be tried in a military tribunal instead of a civilian court, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.
This would be a reversal of Attorney General Eric Holder’s plan for Mohammed and four other suspects in the 2001 attacks to stand trial in a civilian court in New York City.
Obama administration officials have reconsidered the plan amid objections by some lawmakers who have balked at security costs and the idea of granting full legal rights to the suspects.
If Obama agrees to his advisers’ likely recommendation, the White House could get from Congress the funding and legal authority it needs to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Post reported.
“If this stunning reversal comes to pass, President Obama will deal a death blow to his own Justice Department, not to mention American values,” Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.
The ACLU statement said there have been more than 300 terrorism-related convictions in the U.S. federal courts, compared with only three in military commissions, two resulting in sentences of less than a year.
Administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the president’s legal advisers are finalizing their review of the cases of Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators, the Post reported.
The Post reported that White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that “no decisions have been made,” when asked about the process.
Last Thursday, the Obama administration urged the U.S. Congress to steer clear of directing where terrorism suspects should be prosecuted, pushing back against efforts to require military rather than civilian trials.
Reporting by Deborah Zabarenko; Editing by Will Dunham