The 9/11 trial and New York
After 9/11 it became an article of faith in New York City that we must resume normal lives and not let terrorists win by drastically altering our ways. There was a down side to that – for example, the environmental hazards of the attack were not addressed properly. But overall, it worked, and New York got its strut back.
I have to say I am a little disappointed that the Obama administration, facing a sudden spurt of opposition in the city, has dropped its plan to pursue the 9/11 trial at the federal district court in lower Manhattan. It is a courthouse where many famously dangerous people have been brought to justice – spies, terrorists of many stripes, including al-Qaeda members, leaders in narcotics cartels, a former CIA agent who conspired to murder a string of prosecutors, Mafia bosses, serial hit men. In the five years I worked there as a reporter, the building always felt secure, protected by an excellent security staff made up of retired police Intelligence Division officers.
The decision to move the trial elsewhere brings a sense of relief – relief that city taxpayers won’t have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to make the trial happen; relief that Manhattan won’t be tied up for months and months; relief that we won’t have to be reminded quite so relentlessly about that sunny day in September. It’s true that the trial would have been an undue burden on people living downtown, especially in Chinatown.
But the city has lost something by not being able to bring these people to justice within the normal jurisdiction for a terrorist crime committed in Manhattan. Particularly objectionable is how it came to pass that Mayor Bloomberg withdrew his support for the trial – due to lobbying from the Real Estate Board of New York, as today’s New York Times story makes clear enough. It’s often said in New York that everything comes down to real estate values. There are other values to consider as well.