Officials at the Justice Department and White House brushed aside the prosecution’s weak showing in the New York trial, portraying the single-count conviction as a victory. They emphasized that Mr. Ghailani is facing 20 years to life in prison after being found guilty on the conspiracy charge.
“I would point out, as a general matter, that there are very few federal crimes that carry a mandatory minimum of 20 years,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.
Mr. Gibbs told reporters that the administration had not ruled out civilian courts for future terror trials.
But the administration’s position on the issue has been murky since Attorney General Eric Holder reversed a decision to try alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in the same federal courthouse in lower Manhattan in which Ghailani’s trial was held.
It remains unclear whether President Obama and Mr. Holder are still interested in bringing Mr. Mohammed to the US for trial. Other options include a military commission or simply continuing to hold Mohammed without charge at Guantánamo as an unlawful combatant.