Guantanamo Trial for 9/11 Mastermind in Disarray: Updates on the 22nd Anniversary
9/11 22nd Anniversary

9/11 22nd Anniversary

Washington – After a complete hiatus of two decades since their capture, the American military commission for the 9/11 attacks finally returned to the forefront at the beginning of this year.

Following that, there was another delay in the pre-trial hearings in July, and in August, a bombshell: the Department of Defense revealed that they are considering a plea deal for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind the self-made conspiracy, and four alleged accomplices, to save their lives. These were the attacks in which nearly 3000 people were killed almost 22 years ago.

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According to a Pentagon message sent to surviving families and victims of the attacks, five individuals are detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in an American military prison with “no guarantee of ever leaving.”

However, the letters from the military commission’s office cautioned them that “PTA (Plea to the Appointing Authority) could eliminate the possibility of the death penalty” and requested their views.

Mohammed, or KSM as he is commonly known, boasted about his involvement in the Washington and New York attacks in a media interview before his arrest by the CIA in 2003. But defense lawyers seek a plea deal to save their lives and provide better conditions in custody.

‘A Terrifying, Horrible 9/11 Sense of Betrayal’

Representatives of many 9/11 families, like Terry Strada, say that the possibility of such plea agreements is entirely fresh – but perhaps the biggest wrench in the works is demanding answers and accountability for Al-Qaeda’s suicide hijackings.

Strada has stated that 9/11 families have also had to grapple with resistance in their efforts to investigate the potential role of Saudi Arabia in the financial aid of the attacks.

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Horrible Sense

“But the reality is, now on the twentieth anniversary, possible plea deals are being presented, it’s just a terrifying, horrible sense of betrayal,” Strada said, whose husband died on the 104th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center on Tuesday morning. “How much more can their families endure?  People are dying without seeing justice.”

Last week, there was intense criticism from families and lawmakers in Congress after the possible plea agreements, and President Joe Biden issued a statement saying that he agreed with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s recommendation not to accept the plea agreements proposed for the 9/11 claimants. And their lawyers.

The White House said today, “The administration is committed to ensuring that the military commission process is fair and provides justice to the affected, survivors, families, and accused perpetrators.”

‘Answers and Information Denied for Two Decades’

Like Strada, former FBI agent Frank Pellegrino – who spent many years investigating Mohammed – wants the U.S. government to present its case in open court and establish a public record based on the evidence gathered from around the world over the years.

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22nd Anniversary

“It’s my belief that the American public should be informed about the evidence at hand. Many harbor doubts about their government’s transparency, especially in cases where they merely state, ‘These individuals are criminals.” Pellegrino said in an interview.

Lieutenant Cmdr. Adam Cole, a spokesman for the Pentagon’s military commission office, said that the defense and prosecution lawyers are set to convene at Guantanamo Bay early this week to restart pretrial proceedings before the courts begin hearing arguments on the seemingly unending series of motions related to the proceedings.

 

No date has been set for the trial, and skeptics have criticized at least the right to a plea agreement for a surviving 9/11 family member.

Colin Kelly, whose younger brother Bill was killed in the North Tower, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in December 2021, admitting that plea deals of this nature could potentially compromise the lives of KSM and others theoretically accused.

“We recognize that, in return for making concessions to claimants, the government may refrain from pursuing additional efforts to impose the death penalty. It’s a form of appeasing perpetrators with our pain,” Kelly testified.

Kelly added, “We will ultimately hope to obtain, however, answers from claimants about 9/11 – answers and information denied to us by Al-Qaeda for two decades.” “Those who don’t see what’s emerging in commissions cannot see it as justice. It’s not the result we had in mind when we began our advocacy for our rise. But it’s a path – perhaps the only path – to move forward.

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