White House to security critics: We are tough, just like Bush
As Republicans continue their unrelenting criticism of the Obama administration's national security measures, the White House points out similarities to the Bush era. But that raises Democrats' hackles.
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“People dismissively say that Obama is trying to curry favor with the left or the Europeans, but we can’t win this war on terrorism without close cooperation with our allies,” says Bruce Hoffmann, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University. “Obama said, ‘Let’s look at the issues that have been most divisive,’ such as Guantánamo, but the president found that he has inherited a problem of great difficulty and complexity.”Skip to next paragraph
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Terror trials in New York: The administration’s proposal to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four associates in a federal court near ground zero also raised objections from New York leaders, prompting the White House to consider other options. On Jan. 27, Mayor Michael Bloomberg backed off his previous support of the trial, citing cost estimates in the hundreds of millions of dollars. In addition, the case was fraught with legal issues, including evidence Mr. Mohammed had been subjected to waterboarding at least 183 times.
On Feb. 2, a bipartisan group of nine US senators called for cutting off funding for the trials of 9/11 conspirators in civilian courts.
“Why in the world would this country take the people who planned 9/11, put them in the middle of 8 million people in New York City less than two miles from where they attacked the country, and think that’s a good thing?” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina. “That is putting the people of New York at risk for no reason, costing money for no good reason, giving the terrorists a microphone they don’t deserve. And it puts this nation at risk.”
“Trials in New York City [were] going to be politically explosive, but the worst of all worlds is to make that decision and to back off as soon as the political heat intensifies,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in New Jersey.
“The Obama administration had to be absolutely prepared politically.... Otherwise, it fits into a bigger narrative of Democrats scrambling and searching for what they are going to do on homeland security.”
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