Experts say bomb plot won't affect 9/11 trial's site

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Some legal experts said Tuesday they doubted the failed Times Square bomb attack will have an impact on the Obama administration's decision whether to hold the trial of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Lower Manhattan.

The administration initially said it wanted to hold the trial in the city, but now says it is considering other options as well. Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday the administration is still weighing all options.

Professor Eric Freedman of Hofstra University Law School said "it's much too important a policy choice with very important long-term constitutional law implications to be affected by a minor incident as it [the Times Square plot] proved."

Columbia University Law School professor Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor, agreed. "At the very least it is hard to say what happened today radically changes the state of play of the KSM trial, which is of far larger magnitude, and will have a run-up period that is infinitely longer than the one preceding today," he said.

But others said the failed attack might help boost opposition to holding the trial in New York City.

"Both sides of the debate will use this incident to support their view: opponents of New York trials will say this illustrates the dangers, while proponents will say this demonstrates the government's effectiveness in handling threats," said Matthew Waxman, a Columbia Law School professor and national security law expert.

"In the end, a decision about whether to hold terrorist trials in New York is more about politics and costs than about heightened terrorism threats," he said. "On balance the attention to this incident probably plays more to the hands of opponents of Manhattan trials."

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Those opponents contend the circuslike atmosphere following the botched Times Square attack underscores how parts of the city could become paralyzed for months during a 9/11 trial, and that such a trial might also inspire other terror attacks.

"I would be very surprised if the Obama administration came down in favor of having the mastermind trial in Lower Manhattan," said Fordham Law School professor James Cohen.

But Richman noted that "today's proceedings do drive home the point that terrorism cases have been brought in federal court before and will continue to be brought in federal court on a regular basis."

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