Bloomberg OKs trial of al Qaeda propagandist in NYC

CBS News

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg waved away concerns about the trial of an al Qaeda propagandist in New York City during an interview with "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer saying, "From a security point of view, it doesn't make much difference."

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a son in law of Osama Bin Laden and terror propagandist who officials believe did not have any operational role in al Qaeda, was recently captured. He stood for an arraignment in a federal court in Manhattan on Friday morning.

Critics have criticized the government for holding the trial in federal court rather than at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, where several suspected enemy combatants have faced military tribunals, but Bloomberg said the controversy does not faze him.

"For New York City," the mayor explained, the trial is "not really much out of the ordinary. Keep in mind, a prisoner of the federal government will be in a federal detention center, will go to a federal courtroom through tunnels under the street, never seeing the light of day. So from a security point of view, there isn't much extra we want to do."

"In terms of whether this guy should be tried in federal court or interrogated at Guantanamo," Bloomberg added, "I'll leave that to the president. He doesn't need me weighing in. He's got a tough enough job as it is."

He chalked up the controversy to "political games that are played in Washington," saying, "From a security point of view, it doesn't make much difference."

"The real question is from a policy point of view," he said. "Should the U.S. government bring people that they arrest overseas who tried to kill Americans to this country, where the laws in American courts are very different than what would be in a military proceeding in Guantanamo Bay, and I'll leave that to the legal scholars."

"We do not worry about" security threats, Bloomberg said. "It's up to the federal government what they want to do. And we'll make sure everybody is safe in New York."

The mayor also addressed a recent incident in which a pilot landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport reported seeing what he thought was a drone aircraft. Schieffer asked whether Bloomberg knew of any government entity, local or federal, flying drones over New York City He responded, "Don't know. If I had to guess either the pilot saw something that didn't exist, some kind of atmospheric aberration."

"Authorities here don't have drones," Bloomberg noted, adding, "Although down the road, you can see this country using drones for everything...Technology is changing, and we've all got to get used to the fact that we're all going to be under observation an awful lot more than we were in the past."

For more of Bloomberg's interview, watch "Face the Nation" this Sunday, March 10. In addition to Bloomberg, Schieffer will speak with former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla.; Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio; and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee.