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Holder blasts attempt to block 9/11 domestic trials

The Obama administration Thursday urged Senate leaders to reject a legislative ban on the transfer of any Guantánamo prisoner to U.S. soil, a move meant to corner the White House into staging a Sept. 11 mass murder trial at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba.

The House of Representatives included the clause in a catchall spending bill Wednesday that passed by a 212-206 vote. The Senate has yet to vote on it.

Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote Senate majority leader Nevada Democrat Harry Reid, and his counterpart, Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell to protest what he called ``an extreme and risky encroachment'' on White House authority.

``This provision goes well beyond existing law and would unwisely restrict the ability of the executive branch to prosecute alleged terrorists in federal courts or military commissions in the United States as well as its ability to incarcerate those convicted in such tribunals,'' Holder said.

At issue is where to charge confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators, currently held at a secret lock-up at Guantánamo. The Bush administration began a military commissions prosecution against them but the Obama administration suspended the trial to reform commissions.

Holder said he favored a civilian prosecution in Manhattan, a choice that drew protest from both New York political leaders, as well as GOP supporters of war crimes tribunals in Congress.

Some feared crippling security measures and high costs if the trial were staged in lower Manhattan, not far from where the World Trade Center once stood.

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