Why the self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind hasn’t seen a trial 21 years later

It has been nearly two decades since US intelligence agents captured Pakistani militant Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a top lieutenant in the terrorist organization al-Qaeda and the self-proclaimed “mastermind” of the September 11 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans to have. It has been more than 15 years since Mohammed was transferred to America’s infamous Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba.

All these years later, it is still uncertain how much time will pass before Muhammad – and others who helped carry out these attacks – will be convicted for the crimes they are accused of.

Today, Mohammed – who could face the death penalty – and other top al Qaeda agents remain behind bars, still mired in a legal battle forgotten by almost all but their lawyers and the families who are still awaiting justice. Last month, pre-trial hearings for several of those involved in the attacks were canceled with no catch-up date in sight as America braces for Sunday, the 21st anniversary of the attacks.

There are a variety of reasons the case has been delayed: changes in court operations related to the COVID-19 pandemic; various scandals, including the government bugging the courtroom and interview rooms of lawyers and clients; the attempted placement of a mole within an inmate’s defense team; and the frequent rotation of military judges handling the case.

Political activists gather in front of the Federal Building for a demonstration to mark the 17th anniversary of Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay detention center January 11, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. The camp was opened in 2002 after the September 11 attacks.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

However, the biggest factor in the delay is, and always will be, the federal government’s use of torture on Muhammad and others in various “black sites” around the world, which legal experts say has thwarted efforts to prosecute them.

A decade ago, former Guantanamo Bay US chief prosecutor Morris Davis, who led early efforts to prosecute Mohammed, said the decision to torture detainees likely discredited the US military commission tasked with trying them in court pursue. A few years later, a Senate Intelligence Committee released a comprehensive report on the extent of the CIA’s overseas torture programs, eventually finding that they were torturing prisoners not for later prosecution—which would have been inadmissible in court anyway—but for intelligence information.

Although the federal government tried to cover its tracks by using FBI “clean teams” to re-interrogate detainees in supposedly non-coercive settings, the detainees’ attorneys argued that there was such a thing as a non-coercive re-interrogation after the same one Government doesn’t exist tortured them for years.

“Just saying, ‘Don’t worry — we’re the FBI, not the CIA,’ won’t make them any less afraid of further abuse,” said David Luban, a Georgetown law professor and author of a 2008 white paper on lawfare and justice Ethics employed in Guantánamo Bay, tells news week.

According to legal experts, the effects of these decisions can still be felt today. If obtained through torture, all evidence would be inadmissible in court – a fact that has pushed the federal government into years of investigative battles as lawyers probed into Mohammed and other specific details of the torture suffered by their clients in CIA custody. And the fact that torture tainted almost every aspect of the case has created an impossible situation for both the federal government and the detainees’ attorneys, and given the defense numerous opportunities to challenge the integrity of the federal government’s actions against theirs Customers.

In the court filing, Luban said the defense focused heavily on the similarities between the “dirty” black places interrogations and the “clean” re-interrogations alongside the lingering effects of torture on the detainees’ psyches, arguing that the detainees were still in a state of “learned helplessness” when interrogated again by the FBI.

This, Luban said, led to even more protracted legal battles over lawyers’ access to witnesses such as the psychologists consulted about the program or the CIA personnel who tortured the detainees. But the government’s greatest enemy, others argue, is that the government may have broken numerous laws it relied on to deliver justice.

“The truth is, at this point, there is no realistic prospect of a trial, let alone a fair one, in any forum,” said Scott Roehm, Washington director of the Center for Victims of Torture news week. “The only way out of this sorry mess is to do what the Biden administration and the defendants are trying to do: negotiate a plea deal. There is at least some chance that the settlement process can bring the victims of 9/11 and their families a measure of truth and justice without trampling on the rights of the accused.”

https://www.newsweek.com/why-self-proclaimed-9-11-mastermind-hasnt-seen-trial-21-years-later-1741700 Why the self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind hasn’t seen a trial 21 years later

Rick Schindler

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