Holder: Plan to try KSM in civilian court was 'right decision'

The old federal courthouse at 40 Centre Street in New York is see on Nov. 16, 2009.
The old federal courthouse at 40 Centre Street in New York is see on Nov. 16, 2009.

Attorney General Eric Holder insists that one of the most controversial decisions of his tenure—to attempt to try the 9/11 suspects in a civilian court—was the right call.

In a phone interview with msnbc Tuesday, Holder, who will step down once a replacement is confirmed by President Obama, challenged recent assessments of his legacy that have put that decision “in the minus column."

“I did everything that I could. I made what I considered to be—and I think time has shown to be—the right decision, which was to try that case in the federal court system in New York,” Holder said. “All the issues that I was concerned about by putting it in the military system have proven to be real.”

In 2009, Holder announced a plan to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other alleged 9/11 plotters in a Manhattan federal court. But after lawmakers from both parties expressed grave concerns about security, costs, and the dangers of giving the suspects a propaganda platform, he was forced to back down.

“I regret that political pressure won out, and the case was not brought into the federal system,” Holder said Tuesday. “Because if the case had been brought into the federal system, it would be over by now. And there’s no question that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his confederates would be convicted and probably facing death sentences.”

Holder made similar comments at a news conference last year. “Not to be egocentric about that, but I was right,” he said then.

The military commission proceeding under which the suspects are being tried at Guantanamo Bay has been marred by delays and disputes over evidence. A defense lawyer predicted in April that the trial won’t start until 2017.

In Tuesday's interview, Holder also spoke at length about voting rights issues, describing a ruling last week by a federal judge that struck down Texas's voter ID law as "vindication."