GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — Four different civilian prosecutors' offices — two in New York, two near the Pentagon — are studying whether to charge and put on trial five alleged 9/11 conspirators.
Navy Capt. John F. Murphy, the Pentagon's chief war crimes prosecutor, revealed the behind-the-scenes rivalry in comments to reporters Sunday on the eve of a hearing in the proposed death penalty tribunal of al Qaida kingpin Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four others.
He said the four jurisdictions include:
The Eastern and Southern Districts of New York, headquartered respectively in Brooklyn and Manhattan;
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The Eastern District of Virginia, whose headquarters are in Alexandria but also have offices in Norfolk and Richmond;
The U.S. attorney's office in the District of the Columbia, which prosecutes cases at the U.S. District Court midway between Congress and the White House.
White House lawyers have said they prefer federal prosecutions of alleged terrorists before civilian juries rather than military trials.
But they have not completely ruled out using tribunals, which would be held somewhere on U.S. soil if Defense and Justice Department officials successfully carry out President Barack Obama's order to empty the prison camps here by mid-January.
As of Monday, the Pentagon was holding 226 foreign men in the prison camps as long-held war on terror captives, 10 of whom have been charged with war crimes before military judges.
Justice Department attorneys have been studying the 9/11 case and five other alleged al Qaeda foot soldier prosecutions to decide if, how and where they should be tried.
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