Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning that Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. did not consult her before deciding to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his alleged 9/11 co-conspirators in a New York federal court.
“I did not talk with the attorney general,” said Napolitano. “That is a prosecution decision, and I think it was properly made by the attorney general.”
The comments came as Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) questioned her during a Department of Homeland Security oversight hearing on Dec. 9.
Cornyn opined that the “decision was not fully vetted as to what the consequences might be.” He pressed Napolitano about what might happen if any of the detainees were acquitted, saying he was particularly worried that they might apply for asylum if their home countries wouldn’t take them back or that they might receive special immigration rights or even legal immigrant status.
Napolitano responded, “In the off chance that there were to be an acquittal for these individuals, they would immediately be put into removal proceedings and be deported.” She said, “They are paroled…into the country only for the purposes of prosecution. There are no immigration benefits that accrue to that.”
She declined to speculate as to where the detainees could be deported.
But Cornyn said such decisions would ultimately be left up to the judiciary. A judge could decide that Mohammed’s testimony can’t be used for various reasons, he said.
“If, because of coercive interrogation techniques, someone decides he can’t be tried in [a federal] court, what guarantees do we have that he can be detained indefinitely, either here or somewhere else?” Cornyn asked.
Napolitano answered that the trial can be held successfully in New York.