Thursday, January 28, 2010

Great NYT Article about the 9/11 Trials

January 28, 2010

Bloomberg Balks at 9/11 Trial, Dealing Blow to White House

The Obama administration on Wednesday lost its most prominent backer of the plan to try the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks in Lower Manhattan when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the trial should not be held in New York City.

The mayor’s reversal was a political blow to the White House’s efforts to resolve a landmark terror case a few blocks from where Al Qaeda hijackers rammed planes into the World Trade Center, a trial that the president saw as an important demonstration of American justice.

Mr. Bloomberg said that a more secure location, like a military base, would be less disruptive and less costly. His remarks echoed growing opposition from Wall Street executives, the real estate industry and neighborhood groups, who have questioned the burdens that such a trial would bring to a heavily trafficked area of the city.

“It’s going to cost an awful lot of money and disturb an awful lot of people,” Mr. Bloomberg said at a news conference in Brooklyn. “My hope is that the attorney general and the president decide to change their mind.“

Administration officials expressed chagrin at the mayor’s statements, which appeared to come as a surprise. But there was no immediate talk of revising the decision to hold criminal trials for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and his co-defendants in New York.

“Our federal courts have a long history of safely and securely handling international terrorism cases, and no district has a longer history than the Southern District of New York in Manhattan,” said Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman.

Mr. Bloomberg’s comments came in response to a question about a unanimous vote by a Lower Manhattan community board urging that the trial be held elsewhere. He did not explicitly demand that the trial be moved.

Still, his forceful objections came at a difficult time for the administration, which announced in November that it would prosecute Mr. Mohammed and other Qaeda operatives in federal criminal court rather than before a military tribunal.

Congressional Republicans are threatening a financial maneuver to block the trials from being held in New York and are certain to seize on the mayor’s remarks. On Tuesday, six senators wrote to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and urged him to abandon the idea.

The letter, signed by Senators Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut; John McCain, Republican of Arizona; Blanche L. Lincoln, Democrat of Arkansas; Susan M. Collins, Republican of Maine; Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia; and Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, read, in part, “You will be providing them one of the most visible platforms in the world to exalt their past acts and to rally others in support of further terrorism.”

David B. Rivkin, a former Justice Department and White House lawyer in Republican administrations who favors military commissions, said that while the mayor’s view had no legal force, it had enormous political significance.

“The administration is at a precarious point on this issue,” Mr. Rivkin said. If a quick solution is not found to the dispute over a trial site, he said, “this whole thing could come crashing down,” forcing the administration to reverse course and place Mr. Mohammed before a military commission at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Mr. Bloomberg had steadfastly supported the location of the trial. When the news broke two months ago, he declared, “It is fitting that 9/11 suspects face justice near the World Trade Center site, where so many New Yorkers were murdered.”

But over the past few weeks, he has heard from scores of business and community leaders who urged him to reverse course. Real estate brokers argued that security restrictions would dampen the market for apartments in Chinatown and TriBeCa; small-business owners feared a severe drop-off in customers; and residents worried that they would be unable to use their local streets.

The Police Department has said that in preparation for the trial, the area around the courthouse would be flooded with uniformed police officers, in cars and on horseback, and surrounded by 2,000 interlocking metal barriers.

“I believe it would destroy the economy in Lower Manhattan,” said Steve Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, which represents property owners. He has urged the mayor’s office to speak out against holding the trial in the city.

The city estimated it would spend more than $200 million a year on security for the trial, making it one of the most expensive security operations it would ever take on.

City Hall aides said that the complex trial could drag on for years, eventually costing the city close to $1 billion in the middle of a deep recession, though most of that is expected to be shouldered by the federal government.

Raymond W. Kelly, the city’s police commissioner, while publicly supporting the mayor’s earlier position, has also expressed alarm over the impact of the trial on the Police Department, which has shrunk significantly since Mr. Bloomberg took office in 2002. Providing security for the court case, he has told city officials, would “suck the oxygen” from the department and leave it little flexibility to pursue new initiatives, according to people told of the conversations.

On Wednesday, Mr. Bloomberg said the city could ultimately handle hosting the trial, but said it would be better if it were held outside the city.

“Can we provide security? Yes. Could you provide security elsewhere? Yeah,” he said. “The suggestion of a military base is probably a reasonably good one.”

Mr. Bloomberg added, with a hint of sarcasm, “It would be great if the federal government could find a site that didn’t cost a billion dollars, which using downtown will.”

Friday, January 22, 2010

Video from Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Hearing on Christmas Day Attack

Check out the video from Senator Lieberman's hearing in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the failed Christmas Day attack:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Great Politico Article!

Dems have only themselves to blame
By: John Fortier

January 21, 2010

Democrats owe Joe Lieberman an apology. Not that he should expect one.

He and other Senate moderates have been reviled by the left during the health care debate. But if someone had listened more carefully to them, Democrats might already have passed health care reform and incoming GOP Sen. Scott Brown would not be driving to Washington in his pickup truck.

Moderates were always the key to getting health care reform done. For many months, the path to passing health care was clear. Democrats would have to accept most of what Sens. Lieberman (I-Conn.), Bayh, Landrieu, Lincoln, Baucus, Conrad, Carper, both Nelsons and other moderate Senate Democrats wanted. And realistically, they should have secured the votes of moderate Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, too.

Democrats had numerous chances to make a deal with moderates but continued to hold out in the belief that something more progressive might prevail.

The date that should stick in everyone’s head is Oct. 13, nearly two months before Democrat Martha Coakley won her primary in Massachusetts and when no one had even heard of Brown. Oct. 13 was the day the Senate Finance Committee voted 14-9 for a health care reform package. That vote won the support of a number of influential moderate Democrats and also Snowe. With only a small bit of tweaking, this approach might have brought on other Democratic moderates not on the committee and Collins, Snowe’s Maine colleague.

Democrats should have taken that deal and run. It would have given Democrats 80 percent of what they were looking for, and it would have been a major change of policy in a Democratic direction, at a time when health care reform still polled reasonably well.

But what followed was an endless set of negotiations to reflect more progressive concerns. Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to merge the Finance Committee’s bill with the more liberal Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee version fed liberal hopes for a robust public option. Even when the final Senate bill moved closer to Senate moderates’ preferences (although losing Snowe’s vote), the House, too, wanted to renegotiate the deal, to reflect its progressive priorities.

The result was three months of messy public debate within the Democratic Party.

To give President Barack Obama credit, in negotiations with congressional leaders, he has been the voice in favor of cutting a deal and accepting moderates’ wishes. He questioned Reid’s decision to fight for a more progressive bill rather than coalesce around the more moderate Finance Committee approach.

But Obama also deserves some blame. He did not put his foot down and insist on cutting a compromise deal early in the process. Nor did Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Majority Leader Reid. Whatever you think of President George W. Bush, he understood how to cut a deal. He had smaller congressional majorities but followed a formula of having the House pass a bill close to his priorities quickly and then negotiate one deal with a few key Senate moderates.

Even Democrats’ slow approach might have yielded a health care reform bill but for the fact that a special election in Massachusetts was scheduled for Jan. 19 and that the phenomenon that is Brown took advantage of the brewing discontent about health care, the economy and other issues.

The importance of his victory should not be underestimated. Even in Democratic Massachusetts, Brown tapped into voters’ worries that health care was too much change, too expensive and taking up legislative time that should have been dealing with more immediate economic problems.

Yet even after this political sea change, Democrats are still ignoring their moderate members. Many liberals continue to hold out for a more progressive approach through delaying seating Brown (not going to happen) or using reconciliation to pass a more comprehensive bill with only 51 votes in the Senate.

Even the more pragmatic president and Democratic leaders like Steny Hoyer favor the House passing the Senate’s version of health care, getting it done quickly and with a better deal than one could get with only 59 Democrats in the Senate.

But the Brown victory has shaken the political earth. What might have been acceptable ground for moderates to stand on a month ago has crumbled away.

Today, leaders will find that many moderate Democrats would rather drop health care reform altogether than be seen as shoving health care down the throats of an electorate that just sent a strong message to Washington in opposition.

Substantial health care reform is effectively dead — not because Republicans oppose it but because Democratic moderates will see the prospect of quick passage in the face of voter discontent as political suicide in the fall.

And Lieberman can say to his critics: “I told you so.”

John Fortier is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) issued the following statement in response to Senator Chris Dodd’s decision to not seek re-election:

“Chris Dodd has been a genuinely great Senator for our state and country, and a close and valued friend and colleague for me. His retirement ends a remarkable era of service in the Senate by two generations of the Dodd family, beginning with his father Tom who was elected more than a half century ago in 1958.

“Chris Dodd has been an unusually skillful and productive legislator and leaves a great legacy of accomplishment that has improved the lives of millions of American families and children. I am sad for our state and country, and for myself frankly, that Chris is leaving the Senate but I am happy for his family that he will have more time to spend with them now. And I know that his service to America and our friendship will continue in different ways in the years ahead.

“Senator Chris Dodd will leave the Senate in January 2011 with the knowledge that he has made a difference that will last in the lives of his constituents and his country. For that, we are all grateful.”

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Senator Lieberman on "This Week"

Check out this clip of Senator Lieberman on "This Week" from Sunday, January 3rd: