“Sadly, this case has been marked by needless controversy since the beginning,” Holder said. “The prosecution of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-conspirators should never have been about settling ideological arguments or scoring political points.”
In November 2009, Holder conducted a similar press conference to announce that Mr. Mohammed and four co-conspirators would be tried in a federal court in New York City. But the Obama administration faced substantial pushback from citizens and leaders in New York who were concerned that a major terror trial might spark a new round of deadly attacks.
Holder said he studied other options, including conducting the trial at a federal prison outside New York City. But new restrictions by Congress made even that proposal a dead letter.
“While we will continue to seek to repeal those restrictions, we cannot allow a trial to be further delayed for the victims of the 9/11 attacks or their families,” he said.
“I have full faith and confidence in the reformed military commission system to appropriately handle this case as it proceeds,” he said.
Holder’s switch drew immediate praise from Republicans in Congress.
“This is the right outcome to the long and spirited debate that preceded this decision,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell in a statement on the Senate floor. “Military commissions at Guantánamo, far from the US mainland, were always the right idea.”