Attorney General Eric Holder says that the United States still intends to capture al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden - alive, if possible. Holder testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, defending President Barack Obama's detainee policies.
Attorney General Holder sought to clarify comments he made last month that Osama bin Laden would not face trial in a U.S. federal court. Holder said the reason he said that was because intelligence reports indicate that bin Laden's security guards are under instructions not to let him be taken alive, if he is surrounded by U.S. forces.
Holder made clear that bin Laden is still the United State's number one target to capture or, if necessary, kill.
"Our hope would be to capture him and to interrogate him, to get useful intelligence from him about the structure of al-Qaida, about al-Qaida's plans," said Eric Holder.
Ranking Republican Committee member Jeff Sessions of Alabama said there needs to be a clear policy on how to deal with bin Laden, if he is captured.
Sessions said he is troubled by the Obama administration's deliberations on whether to try the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks - Khalid Sheik Mohammed - in a federal court in New York City.
"I just think that the simpler and more logical decision would be to reconsider and try this case where it should be - I think in military commissions," said Jeff Sessions.
Holder said that no decision has been made yet on where Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other high profile terrorist suspects will be tried. He said that New York City is still an option under discussion.
Most Republican lawmakers and many Democrats strongly oppose any plan to try Mohammed in a New York City federal court, saying it would present a security risk and give Mohammed a unique public platform to espouse his anti-American views.
The attorney general also faced questions about when President Obama plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has been a long-time critic of Holder and the administration's detainee policies. But Graham and Holder agreed that the administration should not continue to send detainees to Guantanamo Bay, and that the president needs to work with Congress to establish a new facility to hold terror suspects.
Graham said he was happy to hear that Holder agrees the United States needs a new detention center.
"This is music to my ears because I think we do also, because we're fighting a war," said Lindsey Graham. "We don't have a viable jail. Some people say use Guantanamo Bay. It's safe and secure. I would argue; listen to the commanders. See if we can find a better jail that would meet the needs of this unique war on terror."
Graham said he supports putting some terror suspects on trial in federal courts, agreeing with Holder that it should be decided on a case-by-case basis. Graham has taken on the role of negotiating with the White House on U.S. detainee policy, in a bipartisan effort to find a solution to what to do with old and new detainees.