Alleged 9/11 mastermind to be tried by military court
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Al Qaeda leader who allegedly planned the 9/11 attacks, will be tried by a military court in Guantanamo Bay, the Defense Department confirmed.
Military prosecutors filed charges on Wednesday against Mohammed and four co-conspirators – Walid Muhammed Salih Mubarek Bin ‘Attash, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi – for their roles in the terrorist attacks that killed 2,976 people in New York, Washington D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001.
The charges include conspiracy, terrorism, murder in the violation of war, hijacking, attacking civilians, and intentionally causing serious bodily injuries. If convicted, the five accused could face the death penalty.
The arraignment will be held within 30 days.
The military commission is moving forward with the trial a year after the Justice Department was forced to abandon the case in federal court. Attorney General Eric Holder referred the case to the Defense Department after Congress imposed funding restrictions that made it impossible to bring any Guantanamo detainees to stand trial in the United States.
Four of the five accused – Mohammed, Bin al-Shibh, Aziz Ali, and Hawsawi – are classified as “high value” detainees, a designation that likely subjected them to so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” (aka torture) such as waterboarding.
Mohammed claimed that he was tortured while in U.S. custody, and CIA acknowledged that the senior Al Qaeda operative was waterboarded 183 times. Tape recordings of Mohammed’s waterboarding sessions were reportedly destroyed by the CIA in 2005, according to Human Rights Watch.
Although the 2009 Military Commissions Act prohibits military prosecutors from using evidence obtained through coercion or “cruel, inhuman and degrading interrogation methods,” the American Civil Liberties Union condemned the government’s decision to prosecute “the most important terrorism trials of our time in a second-tier system of justice.”
“The military commissions were set up to achieve easy convictions and hide the reality of torture, not to provide a fair trial,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “The American people have already waited far too long for justice for the 9/11 attacks, and the administration’s use of the military commissions means that justice will never truly be achieved, in the eyes of our nation or the rest of the world.”
The defendants & their alleged roles in the 9/11 terrorist attacks:
- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed allegedly conceived the plan to hijack multiple commercial airliners and crash them into buildings in the United States. The “planes operation” was approved and supported by Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. “Mohammed personally trained the hijackers and informed them that they were going on a martyrdom operation involving airplanes,” according to court filings. On Sept. 11, 2001, 19 Al Qaeda operatives hijacked 4 commercial airliners and intentionally crashed American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 into the World Trade Center towers and crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon. United Airlines Flight 93 never reached its intended target and crashed in a remote field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers tried to storm the cockpit.
- Ramzi Bin al-Shibh was supposed to be the 20th hijacker but his visa application to enter the U.S. was repeatedly denied. Prosecutors alleged that Mohammed appointed al-Shibh as the plot’s “main assistant”and he helped funnel money to the hijackers.
- Walid Muhammed Salih Mubarek Bin ‘Attash administered a 45-day Al Qaeda training camp where two of the hijackers were recruited. He also traveled to Southeast Asia to help Al Qaeda collect intelligence on airline security and successfully smuggled a razor knife onboard a flight.
- Ali Abdul Aziz Ali acted as the group’s de facto treasurer, administering the $100,000 budget that funded the attacks.
- Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi also helped funnel money to the Al Qaeda hijackers. He bought plane tickets for the hijackers, obtained credit cards on their behalf, and dispersed funds that paid for the hijackers’ weapons and flight trainings.
- Military Commission at Guantanamo Bay: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, et al – Description of charges part 1 (PDF)
- Military Commission at Guantanamo Bay: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, et al – Description of charges part 2 (PDF)
- Thomas.LOC.gov: H.R. 2647 National Defense Authorization Act of 2010, Section 1041 (PDF)
- Defense.gov: DOD Announces Charges Referred Against 9-11 Co-Conspirators
- American Civil Liberties Union: ACLU Comment on Charges Against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Other 9/11 Suspects
- Defense.gov: Summary of the High Value Detainee Program
- Defense.gov: Biographies of high value detainees
- Justice.gov: Justice Department Refers Five Accused 9/11 Plotters to Military Commissions
- Justice.gov: Grand jury indictment against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, et al (PDF)
- Human Rights Watch: Profile of Walid Muhammed Salih Mubarek Bin ‘Attash
- Human Rights Watch: Profile of Ali Abdul Aziz Ali
- Human Rights Watch: Profile of Ramzi Bin al-Shibh
- Human Rights Watch: Profile of Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi
- Human Rights Watch: Profile of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
- WhiteHouse.gov: President Barack Obama on military commission (May 2009)