WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday defended the decision to try five alleged plotters of the 9/11 attacks in a New York civilian court, saying it is "appropriate" they face justice there.
Families of the victims have expressed fears about bringing suspects, including alleged September 11, 2001 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to US soil and trying them in a federal court with the same constitutional rights as US citizens.
But Clinton said Attorney General Eric Holder's decision on Friday should be respected and would not have been made unless the authorities were absolutely sure New York could handle the security challenges posed by the trial.
"All believe that New York City not only can handle this, but that it is appropriate to go forward in the very area where these people launched this horrific attack against us," Clinton told "Meet the Press" on NBC news.
"I was a Senator from New York, and I want to see them brought to justice. The most important thing for me is that you know, they pay the ultimate price for what they did to us on 9/11.
"And if the attorney general and veteran prosecutors think this is the best way to achieve that outcome then I think that they should be given the right to move forward as they see appropriate."
President Barack Obama's political foes warn the decision will harm efforts to combat terrorism and say the men should be tried in military commissions, seen by many relatives of the victims as the safer, tougher option.
Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani lambasted the decision as an "unnecessary risk" to New York's security that would give the accused unwarranted advantage of having civilian rights.
"It's an unnecessary advantage to give to the terrorists," Giuliani told CNN. "It's an unnecessary risk to the city of New York, which already has any number of risks."
Clinton earlier admitted that the decision was fraught with difficulties, but was adamant it was the right thing to do.
"Obviously, it's a very painful experience for families to have to go through," said Clinton. "That is something that you know, pains me."
"But we are a nation of laws. And we have two different venues for holding these people accountable -- the military commissions and our federal courts.
"And the individual decisions that the Justice Department and the Defense Department have made along with the advice of veteran prosecutors, I think should be respected."
This video is from NBC's Meet the Press, broadcast Nov. 15, 2009.