By Penny Starr, Senior Staff Writer
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a Senate Homeland Security committee hearing on Wednesday that she has not been consulted and has not met with Obama administration officials about trying terror suspects on U.S. soil. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)
(CNSNews.com) – At a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she was not consulted before the decision was made to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terror suspects in U.S. federal court in New York City.
She also said she has not taken part in discussions since that decision was made, including any that may have taken place to discuss whether the trials should be moved to another location.
“Were you consulted about homeland security risks or costs of providing security for the 9/11 terrorist in New York City before the attorney general made that decision?” Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the committee, asked Napolitano.
“Mr. Chairman, we were not consulted before but we have been part of a process to give cost estimates of what the security costs would be after the decision,” said Napolitano, who heads the department that was created after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 to protect the United States from future harm.
“In recent weeks – at least the last couple of weeks – there have been some statements and some rumors that the administration is reconsidering the question of trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other 9/11 conspirators in New York City,” Lieberman said. He then asked if she had been involved in discussions about homeland security issues as they relate to trying terrorists on U.S. soil.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the committee, asked Napolitano about her involvement in the decision to try 9/11 suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)
“I have not personally participated in any discussions,” Napolitano said.
Napolitano made the remarks at a hearing to discuss the proposed $56.3 billion budget for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for fiscal year 2011. The budget includes $200 million for security for trying Sheikh Mohammed in New York City.
When asked by ranking minority leader Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) why the DHS budget spends money on securing the trials of terrorists in the U.S. while cutting funding for U.S. Coast Guard, Napolitano defended the Obama administration’s stance on the matter.
“Decommissioning part of the Coast Guard’s 13th elite maritime security safety teams that protect waterfront cities makes absolutely no sense given the threats to our ports,” said Collins, adding that she believed the Senate would not fund security for terror trials in the U.S.
“We are going to have terrorist trials in the United States,” Napolitano said. “There will be security costs that accompany those trials.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), ranking member on the committee, said she was shocked that the Obama administration’s budget for the Department of Homeland Security for fiscal year 2011 cuts funding for the U.S. Coast Guard while asking for $200 million for security for the Sheikh Mohammed trial. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)
Napolitano failed to show up at a Jan. 27 House Homeland Security hearing focusing on the Christmas Day bombing attempt of a U.S. airliner over Detroit by an Nigerian native trained by al Qaeda. Napolitano met privately on Feb. 4 with Democratic members of the committee and later with ranking Republican member Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.)
After she met with King, CNSNews.com twice asked Napolitano if she had spoken with President Barack Obama on Christmas Day about the attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253 that day. She initially answered that she would not discuss her conversations with the presient. The second time she was asked the quesion, she answered that “we” were in contact with “the president’s office.”
“Yes, we were in contact with the president’s office,” Napolitano said.
A Feb. 3 report by CNSNews.com pointed out that FBI Director Robert Mueller, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair and Napolitano all told congressional committees following the Dec. 25 attack that they were not consulted about the decision to Mirandize bombing suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
In her prepared remarks on the DHS budget, Napolitano said DHS has five main missions – to prevent terrorism and enhance security, secure and manage U.S. borders, “enforcing and administrating” immigration laws, “safeguarding and securing cyberspace,” and disaster preparedness and response.