The apprehension of a disheveled Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, taken away by intelligence officers from a bunker in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on March 1, 2003, gave the United States its most exhilarating triumph to date against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The third-ranking member of al-Qaida was the target of an 18-month worldwide search. But it has taken America a very long time to try to prosecute him in a legal sense. According to detractors, it has turned into one of the war on terror’s worst disasters.
Mohammed and four other prisoners are still being held in a U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay as the 21st anniversary of the terrorist attacks approaches. Their scheduled hearings before a military tribunal have been continuously postponed.
The most recent setback occurred last month when pretrial hearings planned for the beginning of the autumn were postponed. For the almost 3,000 assault victims’ families, the delay was only the latest in a succession of setbacks. They had long anticipated that a trial would provide answers and bring about closure.
Gordon Haberman, whose 25-year-old daughter Andrea died when a hijacked jet smashed into the World Trade Center, a floor above her workplace, stated, “Now, I’m not sure what’s going to happen.”
He has made four trips from his home in West Bend, Wisconsin, to Guantanamo to see the court procedures in person, but each time he returns disappointed.
According to Haberman, it’s crucial that America learns the truth about what transpired and how it was accomplished. “This should go to trial, in my opinion.”
Mohammed may get the death sentence if he is found guilty at trial.
James Connell, an attorney for one of Mohammed’s co-defendants who is accused of wire-transferring money to 9/11 terrorists, acknowledged rumors that both sides are still “attempting to achieve a pretrial arrangement,” which may potentially save a trial and result in shorter but still significant penalties.
An horrific tragedy for the families of the victims, according to David Kelley, a former U.S. attorney in New York and co-chair of the Justice Department’s national inquiry into the attacks.
It was “a huge disaster” that was “as disrespectful to our Constitution as it was to our rule of law,” he said, to try to have Mohammed tried by a military tribunal rather than in a normal court of law.
It’s a serious stain on the history of the nation, he remarked.
Mohammed’s trial will be challenging, as would be the cases of the other Guantanamo inmates, in part because of what the United States did with him following his detention in 2003.
Initially, Mohammed and his co-defendants were detained in undiscovered facilities overseas. Human rights organizations claim that CIA agents subjected them to intensified interrogation methods that were akin to torture in their quest for information that would help bring down other al-Qaida leaders. Mohammed had the sensation of drowning 183 times while being waterboarded.
Later, a Senate inquiry came to the conclusion that no useful information was obtained during the interrogations. However, it has resulted in never-ending pretrial litigation over whether FBI reports on their remarks may be used against them, a procedure that is not governed by the same fast trial norms that apply in civil courts.
There were worries that the U.S. may have damaged its opportunity to try Mohammed in a civil court due to the claims of torture.
But in 2009, the government of President Barack Obama made the decision to try, saying that Mohammed would be moved to New York City and tried in Manhattan federal court.
Failure is not an option, according to Obama.
However, the relocation was never made because New York City objected to the expense of protection. Mohammed will eventually stand trial before a military tribunal, it was revealed. Then, more than a dozen years went by.
The idea of military courts, according to Kelley, startled many members of the legal profession in the two decades before since they had been successfully prosecuting terrorist cases. He said that the idea of a tribunal “came out of nowhere. Nobody anticipated it.
He said that former Attorney General John Ashcroft opposed tribunals and had supported the federal terrorist cases in Manhattan.
According to Kelley, it will become much more difficult to bring Mohammed to justice in a tribunal, much alone a trial, as time goes on. “Witness recollections fade as evidence becomes stale.”
The victims’ families’ memories and desire to see justice done have not been diminished by the passage of time.
Lucy Fishman, the sister of Eddie Bracken, died in the trade center. Obama’s suggestion to shift the trial to federal court was rejected by The New Yorker because Mohammed is accused of “a military conduct” and should be prosecuted by the military, according to him. And even if he is a little annoyed by the delays, he comprehends them.
The question on everyone’s lips is, “What are they doing after all this time?
‘ he murmured. But he understands that the case “has to be done under a microscope” since the whole world is watching it. The United States must exercise due vigilance and ensure that everything is done correctly.
“Justice’s wheels are turning. They rotate, although slowly. The world will be aware of what transpired when the time comes and all has been stated and done, he continues.
While Mohammed has been held in Guantanamo, the US has murdered Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden’s deputy and eventual successor, in a drone attack just this August.
He spent three years plotting the 9/11 attacks, according to the Guantanamo Bay military commission’s investigators. In support of their claim, they highlighted a computer hard drive confiscated after his detention, which they said included images of the 19 hijackers, three letters from bin Laden, and details about several of the hijackers.
Mohammed admitted in a written declaration read aloud at his tribunal hearing that he pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden, worked on al-council, Qaida’s and was bin Laden’s operational director for the planning, organization, execution, and follow-up of the September 11 conspiracy “from A to Z.”
In the statement, he also claimed responsibility for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, an attempt to shoot down American airplanes using bombs concealed in shoes, the bombing of a nightclub in Indonesia, and plans for a follow-up wave of attacks to the attacks of 2001 that targeted iconic buildings like the Empire State Building in Manhattan and the Sears Tower in Chicago.
According to the statement, he also claimed responsibility for other planned assaults, such as murder plots against Pope John Paul II and then-President Bill Clinton that occurred around the same time.
In contrast to his nephew Ramzi Yousef, who was the planner of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that left six people dead, 1,000 wounded, and a hole in the parking garage below the twin towers, Mohammed has spent almost two decades in legal limbo.
Yousef was found guilty in two separate civil courts and is now serving a life sentence in jail. In 1995, he was also apprehended in Pakistan; nonetheless, he was transferred to the US for trial.
Mohammed has offered a similar defense, declaring through an interpreter at a Guantanamo proceeding that killing people was the “language of any war.” Yousef made a similar argument at the time, saying that his right to kill people was comparable to the American decision to drop a nuclear bomb during World War II.
Bracken visited Guantanamo in 2012 to attend a hearing for Mohammed and his co-defendants. If a trial ever took place, he would probably visit once more.
“I’m not sure whether I want to return there only to relive the suffering. But if I’m permitted to travel, I suppose I would. Yeah. My sister would carry out the task for me.”