To predictable criticism, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. announced Friday that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other accused 9/11 conspirators held at Guantanamo Bay will be put on trial in New York City. The fact that even Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the attacks, will have his day in court makes an eloquent statement about the Obama administration's determination to avenge the victims of terrorism within the rule of law.
Holder immediately was denounced by Democrats and Republicans alike for sending the cases to the civilian judicial system rather than military commissions (which, inexplicably, he has decided to entrust with the trials of those accused of attacking the U.S. destroyer Cole in Yemen in 2000). In the weeks ahead, the administration will need to redouble its efforts to calm hysteria in Congress about the supposed threat posed by moving detainees to U.S. soil.
Ironically, one focus of the criticism is a fact Holder emphasized in his announcement: that Mohammed and the other defendants "will be brought to New York to answer for their alleged crimes in a courthouse just blocks from where the twin towers once stood." Critics say that bringing the trial to New York would make the city a target again. Yet Omar Abdel Rahman, the "blind sheik" convicted in 1995 of plotting to blow up several New York landmarks, was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment in that city without incident.