NEW YORK — Now that President Obama's administration is considering moving the Sept. 11 trial away from a courthouse in Manhattan, the question is: Where to?
Legally, the Justice Department could choose a variety of locations in which to bring an indictment. There is no requirement that the trials of professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others be held in the places where the most victims died, experts said.
Politically, though, the administration faces a bigger challenge.
Though the Justice Department has yet to publicly back down from its plan to try the suspects in New York City, officials have acknowledged that other sites are under consideration. But a growing number of lawmakers in the president's own party say they would rather not have the proceedings in their states.
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Opponents include Democrats such as Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, who was among five lawmakers last week who urged Attorney General Eric Holder to reverse his decision to try Mohammed and other conspirators in civilian courts, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who said a local trial would be too disruptive, whether in Manhattan or upstate.
The same held true for top Democrats in Pennsylvania, talked about by some as a potential site because of the crash of hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 near Shanksville, Pa.
A congressional aide said Saturday that the Obama administration is proposing a $200 million fund to help pay for security costs in cities hosting the trials, to be included in the president's budget being released Monday.
In some ways, the federal courthouse complex in downtown Manhattan seemed a natural choice. Security there is already tight. The prison and courthouse stand side by side and are connected by a tunnel in a complex that is already mostly closed off to vehicle traffic. The district includes some of the country's most seasoned terrorism prosecutors.
Plans to hold the trial there, however, began unraveling after New York's police commissioner, Ray Kelly, said the trial would mean a big expansion of the iron circle around the courthouse.