Video: Politics of terror trial

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    >> team in port-au-prince. kerry, thank you.

    >>> back in this country, the obama administration continued to back away from its plan to put accused terrorist khalid shaikh mohammed on trial here in new york city . but there was no backing away from the administration's belief that the alleged mastermind of 9/11 would meet certain justice. nbc's mike viqueira reports.

    >> reporter: certainty today from the white house on the fate of the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attack.

    >> khalid shaikh mohammed is going to meet justice, and he's going to meet his maker. he will be brought to justice sxeerk, and he's likely to be executed for the heinous crimes he committed.

    >> reporter: gibbs echoed the what the president told nbc in november, when he echoed the decision to try mohammed just a few blocks from ground zero .

    >> can you understand why it's offensive to some for this terrorist to get all the legal privileges of an american citizen ?

    >> i don't think it will be offensive at all when he's convicted and when the death penalty is applied to him.

    >> reporter: but late last week the administration backed down and agreed to move the trial out of new york after local officials voiced concern over cost and security. today republicans again charged that the president is soft on terror.

    >> they ought to be tried in these military commissions . they also ought to be detained at guantanamo.

    >> reporter: democrats call that a double standard , pointing to bush administration policy.

    >> when we tried richard reid , the shoe bomber , in the civilian courts for his crime, when we tried the 20th bomber, 9/11 conspirator, moussaoui in virginia for his crime, nobody said anything.

    >> reporter: but on the politics of security experts say that democrats are fighting a long-held public perception.

    >> when the administration advocated trying ksm in a civilian court as the bush administration did with a lot of others, it came across as weakness. and maybe that's not fair, but that's the way the world works.

    >> reporter: the white house is now set to ask congress for $200 million. to help pay security costs for terror trials in u.s. cities. a move republicans vow to block and that many democrats may find hard to support. and lester, the administration still says today that they will hold khalid shaikh mohammed to account in a civilian trial, not a military trial. the only question at this point, if it's not going to be in new york city then where will it be? that has not yet been decided. lester?

    >> mike viqueira, thanks.

    >>> until just days ago toyota

msnbc.com news services
updated 1/31/2010 5:59:01 PM ET 2010-01-31T22:59:01

The Obama administration said Sunday it would consider local opposition when deciding where to hold Sept. 11 terror trials and pledged to seek swift justice for the professed mastermind of the attacks.

"Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is going to meet justice and he's going to meet his maker," said President Barack Obama's press secretary, Robert Gibbs. "He will be brought to justice and he's likely to be executed for the heinous crimes that he committed in killing and masterminding the killing of 3,000 Americans. That you can be sure of."

Objections from New York City officials and residents have intensified since the Justice Department announced late last year it planned to put Mohammed and other accused Sept. 11 conspirators on trial in federal court in lower Manhattan. In its new budget, the Obama administration is proposing a $200 million fund to help pay for security costs in cities hosting terrorist trials.

White House aide David Axelrod said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other city officials have changed their minds after initially supporting the decision for trials in the city, citing logistics and costs.

"The president believes that we need to take into consideration what the local authorities are saying," Axelrod said. "But he also believes ... that we ought to bring Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and all others who are involved in terrorist acts to justice swift and sure."

Safety and cost have been issues in the debate, but some officials also have questioned the administration's legal strategy for using civilian courts for the suspects instead of military tribunals.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, said the administration should shift the trials to military courts, which he said have been reviewed by Congress to ensure fairness. He and other Republicans have criticized officials for charging Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in civilian court in the Christmas airliner plot instead of turning him over to military authorities.

"We have to make a distinction between a kid who breaks into a sandwich shop in Detroit and a Nigerian terrorist who wants to blow up an airplane flying into Detroit," Alexander said.

Sen. Evan Bayh, an Indiana Democrat, indicated he didn't support the request for $200 million for civilian trials, saying he favored trying terrorism suspects safely, quickly and inexpensively.

"If there's somewhere we can try them without spending that money, why spend the money? We've got a lot of other fiscal problems," Bayh said.

Gibbs spoke on CNN's "State of the Union" while Axelrod appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press." Alexander and Bayh spoke on "Fox News Sunday."

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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