Holder says NYC bomb try won't change decision on terror trials 

While acknowledging the attempted Times Square car bombing highlighted the nation's continued vulnerability, the White House is still not ruling out holding 9/11 terror trials in Manhattan.

"Unfortunately, New York and Washington, D.C., remain targets of people who would do this nation harm," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "Regardless of where a particular trial is, where a particular event is going to occur, I think that is going to remain true and is why we have to be especially vigilant."

The administration in November proposed trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused architect of the 9/11 attacks, and others in Manhattan civilian courts. The plan was promptly assailed by New York officials and members of Congress.

The impasse over how to prosecute the 9/11 defendants persists. Among other things, it has imperiled President Obama's efforts to close Guantanamo Bay prison, when lawmakers tied up finding for the move in a pique over the proposed terror trials.

The administration floated trial balloons to various news organizations quoting unnamed sources indicating Obama was leaning toward military tribunals for Mohammed -- while saying on the record that no decision had been made.

The latest case appears to further complicate for Obama the already complex political and legal issues surrounding the trials.

Republicans, looking to preserve an advantage on national security issues, are questioning the decision by law enforcement to read Faisal Shahzad his Miranda rights shortly after his arrest in connection with the Times Square incident.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, among others, is complaining the administration is neglecting critical national security concerns in a misplaced zeal for following civilian law.

"Don't give this guy his Miranda rights until we find out what it's all about," McCain told radio host Don Imus.

The concerns echo similar complaints made against the administration after the attempted Christmas Day airplane bombing.

The White House responded to McCain by criticizing him for questioning law enforcement -- an escalating tit-for-tat that underscores how politicized the Times Square incident has become, even as both sides tout their national security interests.

The Obama administration has tried to walk a difficult line between rejecting what the president considers the excessive tactics of the Bush administration, while remaining tough on terrorists.

"Each and every day and each and every night both the president and all of those charged at a federal, state and local level in keeping this country safe are on alert for anything that could happen," said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. "Obviously we are vigilant in all that we do."

Polls have shown strong public support for trying the 9/11 suspects in military tribunals -- an option not available for Shahzad since he is naturalized citizen.

Of the status of the decision on the 9/11 trials, Holder said New York is still a possibility. Other options include military bases like Guantanamo Bay, federal prisons and other secure venues.

"We are considering a number of options with regard to where that trial might be held," Holder said. "I'll leave it at that."

jmason@washingtonexaminer.com

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