By Basil Katz
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday said the costs of hosting the federal trials of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other suspected September 11 plotters would top $200 million annually and formally requested that Washington cover the costs.
"New York's financial resources are in short supply, and we have been forced to reduce our Police Department's headcount," Bloomberg wrote in a letter to White House Budget Director Peter Orszag dated January 5 and released to media on Wednesday.
"Securing the trial will require us to pull existing personnel from crime prevention efforts around the city and require significant overtime expenses," the mayor wrote.
"As 9/11 was an attack on the entire nation, we need the federal government to shoulder the significant costs we will incur and ease this burden."
Bloomberg estimated the cost for security would be $216 million for the first year and $206 million annually thereafter. Noting the city was not seeking a "blank check," he said policing the 2004 Republican Convention cost New York $50 million. He said that event lasted one week while the trials could last years.
Bloomberg's estimates are the most specific yet of the cost of hosting the trials. U.S. Attorney Eric Holder told lawmakers in November, "New York should not bear the burden alone."
The trial of accused September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four accomplices, who could each be brought to New York within weeks, will expose New York to an additional risk of attack, some security experts say.
POLICE TO PROVIDE MOST SECURITY
The five men will likely be tried in a Manhattan federal court and detained in a high-security, fortress-like unit in the Chinatown neighborhood in lower Manhattan.
Bloomberg's letter said personnel costs such as overtime would be the largest expenditure at more than $200 million annually. Equipment costs were listed at $12.5 million in the first year and $2.5 million in subsequent years.
Federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and the U.S. Marshalls will take part in securing the trial but the New York Police Department is expected to provide most security.
Police officials have submitted a detailed security plan to Washington, which they say will involve beefing up perimeter security and setting up counterterrorism measures to dissuade potential attackers.
Original New York police estimates had placed costs at around $75 million dollars for the first year of the trial. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York has pledged to help direct separate funding to the city.
"Not a nickel of these costs should be borne by New York taxpayers, because terrorism is a federal responsibility and this is a federal trial," Schumer said in a statement.
(Reporting by Basil Katz; Editing by Mark Egan and Cynthia Osterman)