Home > Conspiracy > Pentagon files death penalty case against five accused 9/11 plotters

Pentagon files death penalty case against five accused 9/11 plotters

Military officials notified the families of Sept. 11 victims of the looming charges a day earlier — as Americans commemorated Memorial Day

By CAROL ROSENBERG
crosenberg@miamiherald.com

Guantánamo war court prosecutors filed fresh death penalty charges against five men for allegedly plotting the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, accusing the former CIA captives of murder, conspiracy and terrorism, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Relatives of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the attacks were notified of the pending charges on Monday, Memorial Day, said Army Lt. Col. Tanya Bradsher, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

The new charge sheet reflected a political setback for the Obama administration, which not only came in to office pledging to close the prison camps in southeast Cuba that today hold 171 foreign men as war prisoners but also decided after study to have a civilian judge and jury hear the 9/11 trial in New York.

Politicians and some 9/11 families protested the scheme, fearing that a trial would make Manhattan an even greater al Qaeda target and that the accused may draw on greater due process in a federal court.

The 90-page charge sheet spells out the roles each of the five men allegedly had in preparing for four simultaneous hijackings of American passenger planes that crashed in New York, at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., and in a field Shanksville, Penn. The charge sheets also includes the names of all 2,976 people who were killed that day.

They allege that in the 1990s Osama bin Laden approved the conspiracy — called “The Planes Operation” — and describes how one alleged plotter cased American aircraft in Asia to learn U.S. security practices and how another used a computer flight simulator to learn how to fly planes in Karachi, Pakistan.

Charged are:

• Khalid Sheik Mohammed, 46, the Pakistani former al Qaeda operations chief who in 2007 bragged to a military panel at the U.S. Navy base that he ran the 9/11 operation “from A to Z.” According to the charge sheets, he allegedly had some of the hijackers train for the mission by slaughtering “sheep, goats and camels” to simulate “how to slit passengers’ throats.”

• Walid bin Attash, 32, also Yemeni, described as a former jihadist who lost a leg to combat. According to the charge sheets, he allegedly ran a 45-day hand-to-hand combat class at an al Qaeda training camp in Logan, Afghanistan to help select candidates for the hijacking.

• Ammar al Baluchi, 33, also a Pakistani, Mohammed’s nephew, who once described himself to a military officer as a Microsoft-trained computer engineer.

• Ramzi bin al Shibh, 39, a Yemeni who blurted out at an earlier hearing that he sought to be the 20th Hijacker in the 9/11 attacks, but failed in efforts to obtain a U.S. visa while living in Germany.

• Mustafa al Hawsawi, 42, Saudi, who allegedly functioned as a financier for some of the Sept. 11 hijackers.

All five men spent years in CIA custody at a so-called black site, overseas prisons at still-secret locations, where they were interrogated on al Qaeda terror plots until former President George W. Bush ordered their transfer to U.S. military custody in September 2006 to ready them for military trials.

Critics of the war court that the Bush administration created and the Obama administration reformed were likewise critical of the decision to return the death penalty case to a Guantánamo court.

“The military commission system is not about seeking justice as much as it is about obtaining convictions,” said Jim E. Lavine, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which advocated civilian trials with civilian courts and jurors. “Federal prosecutors have the tools for prosecuting persons believed to be terrorists, including over 40 specific terrorism statutes and nearly 100 other federal laws.”

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Categories: Conspiracy
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