WASHINGTON - Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden will never face trial in the U.S. because he will never be captured alive, Attorney General Eric Holder said at a House appropriations subcommittee hearing on Tuesday.
"The reality is that we will be reading Miranda rights to the corpse of Osama bin Laden. He will never appear in an American courtroom. The possibility of catching him alive is infinitesimal. He will be killed by us or he will be killed by his own people so he can't be captured by us," Holder said.
The attorney general also rejected criticism on reading Miranda rights to the suspect in the botched Christmas Day airliner terror attack, for which Bin Laden claimed responsibility. Holder said the suspect resumed cooperation with his interrogators afterward.
Holder, who compared bin Laden with mass murderer Charles Manson, rejected criticism by conservatives that terror suspects have too many rights in the court system.
The attorney general defended his decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind behind the September 11 terror attacks, in criminal court rather than a military tribunal. Holder argued that it is easier to get guilty pleas in criminal courts rather than military tribunals.
Last year, Holder announced the trial would take place in federal court in New York City near the sight of the attack on the World Trade Center.
Following objections by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others, the plan was shelved. The Obama administration is reconsidering a military trial for Mohammed and four co-conspirators.
Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) said if a terrorist killed thousands of Philadelphians, its citizens would expect him to be tried in Philadelphia "if he would live long enough."
"It doesn't befit a great nation to hesitate or equivocate on the question of following our own laws," Fattah said.
Holder said trying suspected terrorists in criminal court does not mean they are coddled.
"[Terrorists on trial] have the same rights that Charles Manson would have or any other kind of mass murderer," Holder said. "It doesn't mean they're going to be coddled. It doesn't mean they're going to be treated with kid gloves," he said.
Republican Rep. John Culberson from Texas objected to Holder's comparison, saying it shows how the Obama administration blurs the distinction between wartime enemies and criminal defendants.
Holder responded by saying Culberson was ignoring basic facts about the law and terrorism.
AP contributed to this report.