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Holder: ‘We Need Not Cower’ Facing 9/11 Suspect

U.S. Attorney General appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday to defend trying 9/11 suspects in New York. Kwame Holman has the story.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Next tonight: tough questions for Attorney General Eric Holder over trying the 9/11 suspects in New York City. He faced them today at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee. NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman has our report.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    It was the attorney general`s first appearance before Congress since he announced last week that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other suspects would be tried in federal district court in Manhattan.

    Mohammed claimed direct credit for masterminding the airliner attacks of September 11. The others allegedly helped train and finance the attackers. But the partisan divide over Holder`s decision was obvious in opening statements by committee leaders.

    SEN. PATRICK LEAHY. D-VT., judiciary committee chairman: They committed crimes of murder in our country, and we will prosecute them in our country.

  • SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, R-Ala.:

    Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is a terrorist — is alleged to be a terrorist. The correct way to try him is by military tribunal.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    In his opening statement, the attorney general laid out the thinking that went into his decision.

  • ERIC HOLDER:

    I am a prosecutor. And, as a prosecutor, my top priority was simply to select the venue where the government will have the greatest opportunity to present the strongest case and the best law. We need not cower in the face of this enemy. Our institutions are strong. Our infrastructure is sturdy. Our resolve is firm, and our people are ready.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Under questioning, Holder played down Republican concerns that Mohammed might not be convicted and whether he would be free to go if he's found not guilty.

  • ERIC HOLDER:

    Failure is not an option. This — these are cases that have to be won. I don't expect that we will have a contrary result.

  • SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY, R-Iowa:

    I don't know how you can make a statement that failure to convict is not a — an option.

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