Damage Caused by Bloomberg's Opposition to 9/11 Terror Trials in NYC Is 'Hard to Overestimate,' National Security Expert Says

Democratic Party presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg is facing renewed criticism about the failed trial of 9/11 terror suspects in New York City during his time as mayor.

Shining fresh light on the subject, The Daily Beast yesterday published a detailed report about the previous attempt to try five men accused of plotting the terror attacks on September 11, 2001 in a Manhattan federal court—partly dashed following opposition from Bloomberg.

Bloomberg, who initially voiced support for the trials, reverted course in 2010 amid real estate lobbying and police cost projections, The Beast reported.

The move stalled the stateside trials of co-defendants Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ammar al-Baluchi, Ramzi Binalshibh, Walid bin Attash and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, while damaging president Barack Obama's hopes of bringing the terror suspects to justice in civilian courts outside of Guantanamo Bay.

The spotlight on the candidate's past comes as the campaign team behind the billionaire's self-funded push to become U.S. president has been forced to respond to his controversial "stop-and-frisk" policing policy while mayor and allegations of making misogynistic remarks to female employees.

Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University, told The Daily Beast it's "hard to overestimate the damage" Bloomberg's opposition caused.

Greenberg explained: "The inability to have closure on the 9/11 attacks... the lack of trust in the federal criminal justice system; and the perpetuation of Gitmo—it is an incalculable misstep, and it pulled the rug out from under Obama and Holder's conviction that the 9/11 trials needed to be held... on federal soil, just as [international terror cases] had always been prior to 9/11."

Eric Holder served as U.S. Attorney General from 2009 to 2015.

In August last year, The New York Times reported a trial for the five men had been set for January 2021 at Camp Justice, a portion of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Mohammed is accused of being an "architect" of the terror attack plot that killed close to 3,000 people on the day.

In 2009, Bloomberg asserted that it was "fitting" the trial should take place close to the site of the World Trade Center attack, where, he noted, "so many New Yorkers were murdered." But by 2010, the mayor was writing to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to request federal funding to reimburse the city for security costs that had been projected to be linked to the trials.

Mike Bloomberg
Democratic presidential candidate, Mike Bloomberg leaves the stage after talking to supporters at a rally on February 20, 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah. George Frey/Getty

Bloomberg wrote at the time: "As 9/11 was an attack on the entire nation, we need the federal government to shoulder the significant costs we will incur and ease this burden."

In January of that year, Bloomberg officially pulled support and called for the trials to be moved. "It's going to cost an awful lot of money and disturb an awful lot of people," he said, as reported by The Guardian. "My hope is that the attorney general and the president decide to change their mind." The newspaper reported that the mayor's decision had been echoed by "Wall Street executives and property owners" alongside some high-ranking New York Democrats.

As hopes for a trial languished, Republicans took control of Congress and cemented its demise with legislation. From Guantanamo Bay, the accused now face the death penalty.

"This is all true," Matthew Miller, former Director of the Office of Public Affairs for the Department of Justice (DoJ), tweeted yesterday, sharing The Daily Beast report.

"The 9/11 trial might have died anyway due to Congress, but Bloomberg was the catalyst for it dying when it did," Miller continued Sunday. "Oddly enough, his people later claimed they weren't really opposed—they were just looking for leverage to fund police overtime for a year."

This is all true. The 9/11 trial might have died anyway due to Congress, but Bloomberg was the catalyst for it dying when it did. Oddly enough, his people later claimed they weren’t really opposed - they were just looking for leverage to fund police overtime for a year. 🤷🏻‍♂️ https://t.co/U6WGzfhqEq

— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) February 24, 2020

The Bloomberg campaign has been contacted for comment. Bloomberg was mayor of New York City between 2002 and 2013. He announced his run for U.S. president in November 2019.