Salena Zito

Terrorism expert Steve Emerson believes that, given a defendant’s right to discovery of evidence in a criminal trial, KSM undoubtedly will demand to see national-security secrets: “He will use the platform to broadcast, in free publicity, what he could never achieve elsewhere.”

Holder and Obama both have said the decision to hold the trial here was rooted in showing the world the fairness of the United States – making their decision a political one.

For any prosecutor, considering the politics of a criminal case is a dangerous calculation.

For Holder, as well as for the nation, the stakes just could not be higher in prosecuting a defendant for what he has called "the crime of the century."

Holder has exuded confidence when asked if he can get a conviction; he refers to evidence that the public has not yet seen and that is not tainted by allegations of torture.

Yet the decision to prosecute KSM here “did not bring forth much favorable public opinion,” State University’s Kassop says, “so it’s hard to see what political benefit there is … for Holder or for the Obama administration, at least at this point.”

“Will it make New Yorkers more willing to support the most aggressive antiterrorism policies … to try to insure that this never happens again?” she asks. “(It’s) just hard to say ... .”

What is certain, though, is that holding the trial here will force New Yorkers to relive their intensely personal experiences of Sept. 11. James Arase, a cabbie with a brilliant smile, remembers it as a “terrible day, terrible.” And then his smile disappears.

“Sorry, I don’t want the trial here, not because I am afraid or any other New Yorker is afraid,” he explains. “We just don’t need to relive that horror.”

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.