Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How to try Kahlid Shaikh Mohammed in New York City, without disrupting lower Manhattan or spending a fortune

Al Quaida mastermind Kahlid Shaikh Mohammed is charged with having committed the mother of all felonies against the citizens of New York—planning the destruction of the World Trade Center.

We New Yorkers deserve a chance to hear the case against him in our own local federal court, and, if he is guilty, to have the distinct pleasure of seeing him sentenced to death by our fellow New Yorkers.

But suddenly, all our former friends who immediately after 9/11 declared “We are all New Yorkers now,” are against letting us have our satisfaction. As are some local big names.

Michael Bloomberg, who used to be for the trial is now against it. It’ll cost a billion dollars for security, he whines. God knows how he calculates that. He seems to be getting his numbers from that world-famous math whiz, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who can’t seem, to count how many of his cops have been involved in brutality cases or he’d resign.

The Mayor at one point suggested moving the trial to Governor's Island, a former military fortress in New York harbor. He seems to have backed off that one after Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the New York State Assembly called it stupid. Nah, Silver's rejection of the idea is stupid.

For the sake of argument, let’s say Mayor Bloomberg right about the costs of a trial in Manhattan—and has not simply joined the chorus of “No” Republicans from Rudy Giuliani to Congressman Peter King, a sudden pal of lower Manhattan's welfare from Podunk, Long Island.

The only folks with a real dog in this fight are those residents of lower Manhattan who live within a few blocks of the Federal courthouse. They’d most certainly be inconvenienced for quite some time by traffic barriers, demands to produce identification on their way home from work or shopping, and other royal pains in the butt.

So New York Crank officially endorses one of Mayor Bloomberg's better ideas, even if the mayor has walked away from it.

Hold the trial on Governor’s Island

A trial on Governor's Island would still keep the proceedings within sight of where the Twin Towers used to be—in other words, where the trial belongs. At the same time, the mayor wouldn’t have to put up a nickel of city money for security.

Take a look at the map of lower Manhattan. That island at the lower right is Governor’s Island. Until recently, it was a U.S. military installation, closed to the general public. You couldn't pry your way in there with a diesel-powered can opener. The U.S. Government tried to dump it for years, but there was a problem finding a taker for it.

Well, now it’s New York State's, via some quasi-public corporation. The island is used for a bunch of feeble concerts and exhibitions during the summer, and not for much else. For one thing, it’s accessible only by ferry. For another, hardly anybody wants to go there.


How to maintain Governor’s Island
security during the trial

One of the Island’s former purposes was to house the U.S. Coast Guard. Great. Bring ‘em back. Have one Coast Guard cutter constantly circling the island clockwise, another counter-clockwise. That should be enough to stave off an Al Queda invasion by anything short of a flotilla of Al Queda battleships and destroyers, which don’t exist

You’d also need two dozen or so U.S. Marshals on the island at any given time to guard the prisoner and patrol the place. Or if you insist on something more impressive, a company of U.S. Marines ought to be able to secure the island And you’d need a half dozen or so marshals stationed at the Manhattan end of the ferry station.

Governor’s Island has been a fort since the 19th Century. I’m sure that somewhere on the island there’s a prison cell good to go. Just lock in the Shaikh between courtroom sessions and post a marshal outside is cell door to make sure the Shaikh doesn't commit suicide and to make him feel uncomfortable knowing he's watched every time he has to go to the potty.

No way in hell does all this cost a billion, or a half a billion, or even a quarter of a billion bucks a year. And not a nickel of it has to come out of multi-billionaire Michael Bloomberg's pocket. Nor out of his city's coffers.

Visitors to the island could be strictly controlled by the marshals at the ferry station on the Manhattan side. Jurists could commute by ferry, a ride of roughly 15 minutes, from lower Manhattan. If they need to be sequestered—although I don’t see why—there are plenty of former barracks and officers quarters on Governor's Island where you could put them up. Or give them a real treat and let them live in Class A comfort on the island’s Colonel’s Row.

Tell the president and your representatives
to support a trial on Governor’s Island

The only people inconvenienced by this plan would be a bunch of second-string promoters of concerts and other cultural events. And I’m sure they could find other venues in all five boroughs.

Let’s get behind this plan. We can show the world we can hold a fair civilian trial, make Kahlid Shaikh Mohammed face the people he attempted to destroy, and save a bundle of money.

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