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If There Is Any Place on Earth Safe for This Trial, It’s NYC

photo: wallyg via Flickr

photo: wallyg via Flickr

Eric Holder came to NYC this week. He met with the NYPD, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the US Marshals Service.

He toured the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC), the jail where Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be housed during the trial. Holder also toured the courthouse and, I suspect, he toured the bunker system that connects them all. Lower Manhattan in a post-9/11 world is a hardened target. Very hardened. I suspect he came away very impressed by the changes that have taken place in NYC in recent years.

I happened to be in court in Manhattan on the day Bernie Madoff pled guilty. He arrived at the courthouse from home by car; the news crews who were camped out in front of the courthouse all got their obligatory shots of him going from car to front door.

Later that day, they were still camped out.  I went about my business and when I was returning to the parking garage nearby to pick up my car, I walked over to where the obviously freezing journalists were huddled on that very cold early spring day and asked why they were still there. They were waiting for Bernie to come back out, perp walked in handcuffs with Marshals on either side, maybe an orange prison jumpsuit, on his way to the MCC.

I almost hated to break it to them, but the courthouses are connected to the jail and to other things by a system of bunkers and passageways that are mostly invisible to the public; they are secured in a way which might remind you of the opening scenes to “Get Smart” when Agent Maxwell Smart enters the secure facility of C.O.N.T.R.O.L. They were never going to get a shot of Madoff doing the perp walk once he was remanded to jail. They had been sitting out there all day for nothing, while Madoff was likely already in his cell.

But the same system which hid Madoff from view will not only prevent KSM from escaping, it will keep prosecutors, the judge and even the jurors and witnesses safely invisible.

Further, since 9/11, the major buildings downtown have been bomb hardened and largely brought up to the revised embassy construction standards and the roadways have a barricade system that can be deployed on virtually no notice. The NYPD and the U.S. Marshals Service have not exactly been sitting on their hands training and planning-wise since 2001, either.

This is not some “I dare you” taunt to Al-Qaeda. This is to point out to the scaredy cats who think that we should throw our criminal justice and due process standards under the bus out of fear, that NYC kinda noticed what happened on 9/11. That attack is not forgotten.

NYC  has attracted the best and brightest talent; it has amazing capabilities and it takes its own security VERY SERIOUSLY. That best and brightest talent has spent the last 8+ years making our civic center battle hardened.  If there is any place on earth that is up to the task of providing a secure facility for the KSM trial, it’s NYC. NYC also managed to successfully host the trial of the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman, and that was BEFORE the enhanced security construction was completed.

I’m not saying it won’t be difficult for NYC to pull off, and Police Commissioner Ray Kelley thinks it will take more that $75 million in overtime and other security expenses, including expenses to protect other parts of the city such as the bridges and tunnels, but there is no doubt in my mind that the law enforcement and emergency services in NYC will be deeply and seriously focused on this project. They successfully foiled the Millennium Bomb plot, and did so without canceling the Times Square New Year’s event. I think this team has the physical plant infrastructure, the planning and training infrastructure, the manpower, the experience and the smarts to get the job done.

I am glad to see that they are already at work.

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Cynthia Kouril

Cynthia Kouril

Cynthia Kouril is a former Special Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York under several different U.S. Attorneys, former counsel to the Inspector General for the N.Y.C. Department of Environmental Protection where she investigated threats to the New York City water supply and other environmental crimes, as well as public corruption and fraud against the government, former Examining Attorney at the N.Y.C. Department of Investigation and former Capital Construction Counsel at New York City Parks and Recreation.
She is now in private practice with a colleague whom she met while at the USA Attorney's Office. Ms. Kouril is a member of the Steering Committee, National Committeewoman and Regional Coordinator for the New York Democratic Lawyers Council, a member of the Program Committee of the Federal Bar Council and a member of the Election Law Committee at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. She is active in several other Bar Associations.
Most important of all, she is a soccer mom.