9/11 cited in federal courthouse security plan

9/11 cited in federal courthouse security plan

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By LARRY NEUMEISTER | AP

NEW YORK (AP) -- A federal courthouse blocks from the World Trade Center site in Manhattan is getting a $10.4 million security boost, more than a decade after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks proved the need for it.

Chief Judge Loretta A. Preska announced the plans Monday, saying a 4,500-square-foot glass and steel structure where court officers can screen people for weapons and explosives outside the building was a commonsense solution to a problem that seemed obvious after terrorists hijacked two planes and demolished the 110-story twin towers.

"Preliminary plans were drawn, but the project was never funded, despite the fact that some of the highest profile, most dangerous terrorist cases in the country are resolved in this court, mere blocks from ground zero," she told a news conference attended by numerous judges and security personnel.

She said New York Congressional representatives drew attention to the issue before the General Services Administration "scoured the country" for money left from completed or cancelled projects that could be spent on the pavilion.

"New York is still the No. 1 terror target in the United States, if not the world," U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said.

U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said the improvement was "essential modernization." He added: "We have to be very careful about security for a long time to come." 

Construction is scheduled to start this fall and be completed in April 2015.

The courthouse opened in the mid-1990s. It's next to a federal courthouse that was built in the 1930s and was recently refurbished. Several terrorism trials in the courthouses have resulted in more than two dozen convictions.

The announcement came just two months before the 20-year anniversary of the start of the first World Trade Center bombing trial stemming from the February 1993 attack that killed six people and injured more than 1,000 others. Four men convicted at trial are serving life sentences.

Other major trials have resulted in the convictions of terrorists charged in a plot to bomb five New York City landmarks including the United Nations, defendants accused of plotting to blow up 12 U.S. airliners over the Far East and men charged in the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 that resulted in 224 deaths, including 12 Americans.

Also convicted in the courthouses was Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 bombing. His uncle, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, was supposed to be tried in Manhattan on charges that he was the architect behind the Sept. 11 attacks but it was decided he would be tried in a military tribunal after concerns were raised that his trial would pose security threats to Manhattan.

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