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Listen to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly warning on KSM trial

When the Justice Department announced that the trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed would take place at federal court in lower Manhattan, I didn't think much of it. Surely it was my "bring it on" Manhattanite attitude. Other terrorists have been tried there. So bringing the mastermind of 9/11 to the scene of his horrific crime seemed only fitting. But one person's unexpected opposition changed my mind: Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

AP file photo

Kelly reclaimed the helm of the NYPD at the behest of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg when he took office in 2002. Not only did he have to protect the city from everyday crimes (you know, random murders, burglaries and assaults), but also from radical jihadists hellbent on carrying out more terrorist attacks on the Big Apple. Turf battles with federal intelligence agencies led Kelly to create his own intelligence gathering operation to provide him and the mayor with real-time information. There are more than 1,000 NYPD officers assigned to counterterrorism, including some officers stationed overseas.

Kelly is not easily spooked. So, when I read reports that he was voicing concern behind the scenes about the costs to the city, I listened.

It's not just the price tag of $1 billion it would cost over the five years of the KSM trial that concerns him. The NYPD, which will be 8,000 officers smaller than it was in 2001, would be stretched even further. A war on terror that is focused primarily on Manhattan would suddenly and necessarily stretch across all five boroughs. Kelly reportedly has said providing security during the trial would "suck the oxygen" out of the department's other initiatives.

If the trial is ultimately held there, New Yorkers more than anyone else could handle it. But the White House's call to have the Justice Department review its decision to hold the trial in Manhattan is still a good one.

By Jonathan Capehart  | January 29, 2010; 3:25 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Amen. I do not trust President Obama to do the right thing on his own.... but hopefully he has listened to those who know how terrorit work and are not afraid to call them terrorist. This is a good thing moving the trial out of Manhatten. Now, lets do the really right thing and move the trial out of our civilian courts and back into the military court.

Posted by: markandbeth92 | January 29, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Until a couple days ago, both Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly were publicly in favor of a trial in New York. And if Commissioner Kelly had had reservations, as Mr. Capehart suggests, he didn't need to come out in favor of a New York venue; he could simply have declined to comment while "voicing concern behind the scene".

I don't believe the cost of security has anything to do with this decision, since both the Mayor and the Commissioner clearly knew what that would be from the get go. And I find it hard to believe that the downtown merchants' association has enough clout to prompt such a dramatic flip-flop.

So there must be some other explanation for this change of heart, and I'm quite curious as to what it could be.

Posted by: Itzajob | January 29, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

At least, Obama is now receiving ADULT SUPERVISION from the CITIZENS OF THE US! Team Obama is oblivious to make the right decisions on their own -- just look at the Geithner trail of mistakes!!

From the "Close GITMO in a Year" decision, through his ill thought through decision to call out the Supreme Court during the SOTU address, there is growing evidence that Obama's staff is simply not up to the task -- at least Obama is willing to clean up the mess they have made before a total catastrophe. TIME FOR OBAMA TO CLEAN HOUSE IF HE IS TO HAVE ANY SORT OF A LEGACY!

Posted by: wheeljc | January 29, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

The Big Apple is so scared of a few possible jihadis that they can't bear the thought of having a fair trial in their fair city.

Bring 'em to Dayton. We got past Milosevic and his opponents, we can deal with a couple of two bit terrorists.

And have our Lebanese, Syrian Muslim, Greek, Ethiopian, and other ethnic fests go on on the levee with out even noticing.

WE know what to do with floods, haven't had one in 97 years. Floods of press and potential terrorists aren't nearly so hard to deal with.

Posted by: ceflynline | January 29, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Speaking as a New Yorker, I will say now what I said when the location of the trial was first announced: the idea of holding it here is majorly idiotic.

Posted by: Farnaz1Mansouri1 | January 29, 2010 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Obama needs to stop making policy pronouncements before he does his homework.

Posted by: bobmoses | January 29, 2010 10:58 PM | Report abuse

The federal government has been pouring money into NYC for police and other security since 9/11, on the theory that it is a high profile target. If NYC has determined that, notwithstanding these added measures, it cannot risk hosting these trials, so be it, but let federal security dollars be re-directed to other cities and states.

Posted by: tango1 | January 29, 2010 11:40 PM | Report abuse

this is simply cowardice. It is right and fitting for NY to hold this fair trial in a democratic system. Justice needs to be done. I'm utterly discouraged by the fact that the U.S. can't simply respond to terrorism with normalcy rather than panick and fear. The turn to torture, preventive detention and the trappings of a police state is a cause for embarrassment, not celebration. Police Commissioner Kelly (and capehart) = FAIL.

Posted by: caphilldcne | January 30, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Ha, ha, tango1. That's very funny. But you should be careful - most people have no idea how Homeland Security money is divvied up, per capita, among the states, and they might think you were serious.

Meanwhile, NYC is in the process of laying off over 3,000 cops and 1,000 firefighters precisely because we have never gotten even our proportionate share of this money from Washington (despite our legitimately higher exposure than, say, Wyoming).

I still wonder, however, what has so suddenly prompted the Commissioner to change his public position and propose such an over-the-top security plan.

Could it be that the City, in the wake of 19,000 recently-announced layoffs, has been forced to conclude that it can't afford even a reasonable amount of security for a New York trial, and so has floated this truly outlandish $200 million per year security plan, to torpedo it once and for all?

Posted by: Itzajob | January 30, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

We hold these truth to be self evident, that all men are created equal... endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights BLAH BLAH BLAH, YADDA YADDA YADDA

KSM must be pleased it would take a Billion dollars in security to have a trial for him in the U.S.... the terrorists won.

Posted by: angriestdogintheworld | January 31, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

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