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White House in a Bind; Pressure Builds to Move Key 9/11 Trial Out of New York City

Obama is being forced to seek alternate venues for the trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed after a revolt by local politicians, reigniting right-wing opposition to a civilian trial.

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As Glenn Greenwald pointed out last fall, when the right-wing outrage over Mohammed’s New York trial was at its peak: “If you're taking the position that military commissions and even indefinite detention are perfectly legitimate tools to imprison people -- as Holder has done -- then what is the answer to the Right's objections that Mohammed himself belongs in a military commission?”

There's no good answer to this contradiction -- and Obama's opponents will likely exploit it every chance they get. As it is, much of the current New York Post-style outrage is less about New York and more about the notion of trying Mohammed as a "common criminal." As Sen. Graham says, “Moving the trial out of New York City addresses only half the problem. Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and the 9/11 conspirators should be tried by military commission -- not civilian court where they will be given the same legal rights as American citizens."

This is the true concern of the right-wingers who are up in arms about bringing the 9/11 trials to New York. Most of them would prefer not to see a 9/11 trial at all. As the American Prospect's Adam Serwer pointed out on Friday, there’s “a potentially even more cynical motivation for [Graham’s] bill”:

Graham, a former JAG lawyer, is the Senate's expert on military law. He helped craft the revised military commissions, so he has to know that the prior commissions were ineffective, and that the new ones still might not be constitutional. Republicans have an interest in not revisiting the torture of terror suspects in open court, so preventing a civilian trial for KSM, depending on whether or not the commissions pass constitutional muster, could mean simply putting off any kind of trial indefinitely.

This certainly would align with the New York Post editorial page, which acknowledged: “Yes, moving the trials out of the city will create headaches elsewhere. But the solution there is just to scrap them.”

Liliana Segura is an AlterNet staff writer and editor of Rights & Liberties and World Special Coverage. Follow her on Twitter.