Khalid Sheik Mohammed to be tried by military commission

 The pro-Israel lobby (to include the neocons which are part of it) pushed hard (via their advocates in the Congress and media as well) not to have federal court trials for KSM and company because the last thing it wanted was for KSM to have a public forum to convey the primary motivation for why he plotted the tragic 9/11 attack (which was US support for Israel as one can look up ‘Israel as a terrorist’s motivation’ in the index of James Bamford’s ‘A Pretext for War’ book and see psge 147 of thr 9/11 Commission Report as well). See http://tinyurl.com/motivation911 &  http://tinyurl.com/911motivation as well:

Khalid Sheik Mohammed to be tried by military commission

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/khalid-sheik-mohammed-to-be-tried-by-military-commission-officials-say/2011/04/04/AFhlS8cC_story.html

By Peter Finn and William Branigin, Monday, April , 4:43 PM

Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four co-defendants accused of planning the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks will be prosecuted in a military commission, a decision that reverses the Obama administration’s long-held goal of bringing the men to trial in federal court as part of its overall strategy of closing the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced the decision during an afternoon news conference. Saying he made the decision “reluctantly,” he blamed barriers thrown up by Congress for the administration’s abandonment of one of its signature goals.

Holder called Congress’s intervention “unwise and unwarranted” and said he continues to believe that the case could have been tried in federal court in Manhattan or, as an alternative he proposed, in upstate New York. He said the Obama administration would continue to work for repeal of the restrictions Congress imposed and would prosecute other terrorism cases in federal courts.

But he said he decided that prosecution of Mohammed and the four other defendants should go ahead in a military tribunal because the restrictions were “unlikely to be repealed in the immediate future” and because the families of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the Sept. 11 attacks have already waited too long for justice, which he said is “long overdue.”

In response to questions, Holder said he believes military prosecutors can seek the death penalty in the case. But he said it remains “an open question” whether the death penalty would apply to a defendant who pleaded guilty.

In both symbol and substance, the decision appears to encapsulate Guantanamo Bay’s enduring role as part of the country’s counterterrorism arsenal, and it may mark the end of the administration’s more than two-year effort to close the facility.

Holder first announced the prosecution of Mohammed and his co-defendants in November 2009, the culmination of an almost year-long examination of the cases of every detainee at Guantanamo Bay. And administration officials said justice would be best served by bringing those who orchestrated the destruction of New York’s Twin Towers to the scene of that crime.

But the decision triggered almost immediate opposition from congressional Republicans, who said the attacks on New York and Washington were an act of war, not ordinary crimes, and should be prosecuted in a military tribunal.

Fears about terrorism and the economic toll of holding the trial in lower Manhattan galvanized local opposition, and the administration quietly shelved its plans while insisting it was still committed to federal trials for some Guantanamo detainees.

But Congress has erected a series of barriers to bringing detainees into the United States, even for prosecution, and the administration has now bowed to the near-certainty that it will not overcome what has become bipartisan opposition to federal trials.

The five defendants will now be returned to the courtroom at Guantanamo Bay that was purposely built for them by the Bush administration. Mohammed and the four others were first charged with capital war crimes under the last administration, but Obama suspended proceedings at Guantanamo, and the military then withdrew charges in anticipation of a federal trial.

At the Justice Department’s request, a sealed indictment in New York against the five men was unsealed and dismissed by a federal judge Monday.

The indictment charged Mohammed and his co-defendants — Walid bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa al-Hawsawi — with 10 federal felonies. The charges included conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism, to hijack and destroy aircraft and to kill Americans, as well as acts of international terrorism, destruction of aircraft, aircraft piracy, murder of U.S. officers and employees and destruction of commercial property.

According to the unsealed indictment, Mohammed, a Pakistani closely associated with al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, was the “operational leader” of the Sept. 11 plot. It says Attash, a Yemeni also known as Khallad bin Attash, Tawfiq bin Rashid and other aliases, collected information on airport and airplane security measures. Binalshibh, called Ramzi bin al-Shibh in the indictment, is another Yemeni who “tried to become one of the pilot hijackers but failed to obtain a visa” to enter the United States, the indictment says. Instead, he “managed the plot . . . by, among other things, sending money to hijackers in the United States from abroad.”

Ali, a Pakistani who is Mohammed’s nephew and is better known as Ammar al-Baluchi, also facilitated the plot by sending money to the hijackers, the indictment says. Hawsawi, a Saudi with several aliases including Mustafa Ahmed, participated by “helping the hijackers travel to the United States and facilitating their efforts upon arrival,” according to the indictment.

In moving to drop the federal charges, the Justice Department cited congressional enactment in December 2010 of the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act, a provision of which effectively bars the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the United States, even for prosecution.

In his news conference Monday, Holder said the Justice Department had been “prepared to bring a powerful case” against the five defendants and had “consulted extensively with the intelligence community and developed detailed plans for handling classified evidence.”

Blasting the congressional intervention, Holder added: “As the president has said, those unwise and unwarranted restrictions undermine our counterterrorism efforts and could harm our national security. Decisions about who, where and how to prosecute have always been — and must remain — the responsibility of the executive branch. Members of Congress simply do not have access to the evidence and other information necessary to make prosecution judgments. Yet they have taken one of the nation’s most tested counterterrorism tools off the table and tied our hands in a way that could have serious ramifications.”

Holder said U.S. national security “demands that we continue to prosecute terrorists in federal courts, and we will do so.”

In response to questions, he said he knows the Mohammed case “in a way that members of Congress do not.” While he respects “their ability to disagree,” he said, “I think they should respect the fact that this is an executive branch function.”

As for public opposition to holding the trial in Manhattan, Holder said he had proposed bringing it to Otisville Prison in upstate New York, about 78 miles northwest of New York City. Such a venue would have removed “the concerns that people had about bringing a case in Manhattan” and would have “lowered the costs pretty dramatically,” he said.

 finnp@washpost.com

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Holder: 9/11 suspects to face military tribunals

By PETE YOST and EILEEN SULLIVAN, Associated Press Pete Yost And Eileen Sullivan, Associated Press 37 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Yielding to political opposition, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged henchmen will be referred to military commissions for trial rather than to a civilian federal court in New York.

The families of those killed in the Sept. 11 attacks have waited almost a decade for justice, and “it must not be delayed any longer,” Holder told a news conference.

Holder had announced the earlier plan for trial in New York City in November 2009, but that foundered amid widespread opposition to a civilian court trial from Republicans and even some Democrats, particularly in New York. Congress passed legislation that prohibits bringing any detainees from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States.

Monday, the attorney general called the congressional restrictions unwise and unwarranted and said a legislative body cannot make prosecutorial decisions.

Most Republicans applauded the turnabout, but Holder said he is still convinced that his earlier decision was the right one. The Justice Department had been prepared to bring “a powerful case” in civilian court, he said.

In New York on Monday, the government unsealed and got a judge to dismiss an indictment in the case that charged Mohammed and the others with 10 counts relating to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The dismissal was because the defendants will not be tried in civilian court.

The indictment said that in late August 2001, as the terrorists in the United States made final preparations, Mohammed was notified about the date of the attack and relayed that to Osama bin Laden.

Some 9/11 family members supported the switch to military commissions.

“We’re delighted,” said Alexander Santora, 74, father of deceased firefighter Christopher A. Santora. The father called the accused terrorists “demonic human beings, they’ve already said that they would kill us if they could, if they got the chance they would do it again.”

Nancy Nee, whose firefighter brother George Cain died at the World Trade Center, said that the five men are “war criminals as far as I’m concerned and I think that a military trial is the right thing to do.”

However, a top Democrat, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said he is disappointed with the decision not to prosecute in federal court. “I believe that our justice system, which is the envy of the world, is more than capable of trying high-profile terrorism and national security cases,” said Leahy.

Republican lawmakers welcomed the shift.

“It’s unfortunate that it took the Obama administration more than two years to figure out what the majority of Americans already know: that 9/11 conspirator Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is not a common criminal, he’s a war criminal,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith of Texas.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Jeff Sessions of Alabama said he was “pleased that the Obama administration has finally heeded those who rebuked their decision and that the trial is being held where it belongs.”

The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the administration’s decision.

Cases prosecuted in military commissions now “are sure to be subject to continuous legal challenges and delays, and their outcomes will not be seen as legitimate. That is not justice,” said ACLU executive director Anthony D. Romero.

Holder said it is unclear whether the five men could receive the death penalty if they plead guilty in military court.

The political fight over where to try the alleged 9/11 plotters is part of a bigger battle in which Republicans want no detainees from Guantanamo Bay brought into the United States.

In a letter sent Monday, Holder assured Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., that the administration has no intention of moving Guantanamo Bay detainees into a shuttered Illinois prison. Originally, the administration intended for Gitmo detainees to be housed there as part of a plan to close Guantanamo Bay. Despite Congress’ restrictions on transferring detainees from Guantanamo, the administration still formally supports closing the military prison there.

During a military hearing at Guantanamo Bay in 2007, Mohammed confessed to planning the Sept. 11 attacks and a chilling string of other terror plots.

Many of the schemes, including a previously undisclosed plan to kill several former U.S. presidents, were never carried out or were foiled by international counterterror authorities.

Mohammed made clear that al-Qaida wanted to down a second trans-Atlantic aircraft during would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid’s failed operation later in 2001.

The other four alleged co-conspirators are Waleed bin Attash, a Yemeni who allegedly ran an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan; Ramzi Binalshibh, a Yemeni who allegedly helped find flight schools for the hijackers; Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, accused of helping nine of the hijackers travel to the United States and sending them $120,000 for expenses and flight training, and Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, a Saudi accused of helping the hijackers with money, Western clothing, traveler’s checks and credit cards.

Mohammed allegedly proposed the idea for the Sept. 11 attacks to Osama bin Laden as early as 1996, obtained funding for the attacks from bin Laden, oversaw the operation and trained the hijackers in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Mohammed was born in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province and raised in Kuwait.

 

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