Holder: No Final Decision On 9/11 Trials

Attorney General Eric Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning that the administration has made "no final decision" about whether to try 9/11 suspects in federal court.

As I've said from the outset, this is a close call.  It should be clear to everyone by now that there are many legal, national security and practical factors to be considered here. As a consequence, there are many perspectives on what the most appropriate and effective forum is. In making this decision, I can assure you that this administration has only one paramount goal: to ensure that justice is done in this case. In the pursuit of justice, we will enforce the law and protect the American people.

The reason why no decision has been made is twofold: one, the White House hasn't made a decision about whether they want to support a strong public push by the Justice Department to try those suspects in federal courts. Number two, the basic dilemma, as crystallized to me by a senior administration official last week, is that President Obama hasn't decided whether closing Guantanamo Bay is a higher priority than establishing a paradigm for trying high-level terrorism suspects in federal courts AND codifying into law the president's ability to keep so-called "War of Law Detainees" indefinitely detained. Congress faces a well of different pressures: Democrats don't want to talk about these issues until after the election, but they DO want Obama to deal with the whole shebang as a whole shebang. Republicans, with the exception of Sen. Lindsey Graham, will oppose whatever the administration proposes, unless it happens to be to the right of the nested position of the Bush administration. Today, watch for Republicans to bring guns to this knife fight.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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