By Molly K. Hooper - 11/13/09 04:07 PM EST
Top ranking House Republicans accused President Barack Obama of "reverting to
a dangerous pre-9/11 mentality" Friday after reports surfaced that Attorney
General Eric Holder intended to prosecute professed Sept. 11 terror mastermind
Khalid Sheik Mohammed in civilian court.
Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the decision "irresponsible (because it) ... puts the interests of liberal special interest groups before the safety and security of the American people. The possibility that Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his co-conspirators could be found ‘not guilty’ due to some legal technicality just blocks from Ground Zero should give every American pause."
Armed Services Committee ranking member Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) called the decision "dangerous."
The al-Qaeda propaganda leader has been held in the Navy detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since 2003, and Mohammed told a military judge of his intention to plead guilty to charges that he orchestrated 9/11 and other attacks against the United States.
Obama was asked about the story at a press conference in Japan, where he is participating in a global economic summit.
Obama deferred to Holder, but said, "I am absolutely convinced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be subject to the most exacting demands of justice. The American people will insist on it and my administration will insist on it."
That response didn't sit well with Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), the senior GOP appropriator on the subcommittee with oversight of the FBI and Justice Department.
Wolf called the decision "crazy."
“It could jeopardize the security of the United States,” Wolf said.
Wolf noted that KSM will not be held in a supermax while on trial, which could last for as many as five years.
“This is the guy that beheaded Danny Pearl. He is the mastermind behind 9-11,” the senior lawmaker told The Hill in an interview. Mohammed has reportedly confessed to killing the Wall Street Journal reporter in 2002.
House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) echoed in a statement concerns that "the Obama administration’s decision to bring the 9-11 conspirators to the U.S. to stand trial could endanger the American people.
"The Obama administration has yet to respond to concerns about what to do with terrorists once they have served their sentences," Smith said. "Will they be deported? Will they be released into American communities? The administration’s inability to articulate a plan for closing Gitmo gives me no confidence that they will come up with answers to these pressing questions. The American people must be reassured that no terrorist will ever be released into our communities."