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Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Mastermind of 9/11, Speaks Out to Trial Judge

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A new phase in the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other suspected terrorists accused of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States of America has begun. We see in court today, as witness to his ongoing trial for the attacks that killed thousands of innocent American citizens, a new and different Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In May, as the pre-trial issues were opening for discussion, he and co-defendants were clearly frightened and confused. So affected by their time in prisons run by the American military, in Guantanamo Bay and more remote locations, the defendants were only able to participate passively in their defense. They were asked to wear headphones so as to hear the proceedings in their native tongue; they were shaken, and believed the headphones to be torture devices. The prisoners, confused, ignored the judge, praying into their beards, sometimes making frightened outbursts. They hoped to bring the details of their torture to the attention of whomever might listen.

Even as early as May, it was clear that the references to their torture and humiliation, including, in Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s case, 183 waterboardings at a secret CIA “black site” would be inadmissible, as any mention might be a release of classified information. Prosecutors insist that these restrictions are necessary to prevent the release of information that would reveal intelligence sources and methods. Hina Shamsi, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, spoke out today against the restrictions; he argued they were overly broad and intended not to protect national security so much as to prevent the public from learning more details about the harsh treatment of the defendants in the CIA’s overseas prisons . Before the trial, before the court was brought to order, defense attorney David Nevin was told, “You can’t talk about it [torture], you can’t discuss it… It is not going to happen!”

Prior to the release of the well-known Wikileaks secret documents revealed by high level hacking, the government took the position that “enhanced” interrogation was used for discovering plans for future attacks. Wikileaks brought to world attention that in fact the waterboarding and enhanced techniques were being used to extract evidence against suspects already in custody.

The current proceedings have limited the prohibited subjects to torture and excessively cruel treatment of prisoners prior to their arrival at Guantanamo Bay. The issue is serious and worthy of discussion. Early in the motions phase, a debate came before Army Judge Colonel James L. Pohl, regarding a prosecution request that the public be prevented from hearing information concerning the CIA’s rendition and interrogation tactics. In addition to the sentiments of Hina Shamsi, above, the court heard from David Schultz, an attorney representing 14 media organizations, including the Washington Post, who argued that keeping large portions of the proceedings classified would undermine the legitimacy of the trial, and he admonished, “No one will believe justice was done if things are conducted in secret.”

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, accused mastermind of the 9/11 terrorism attack, sat quietly until this point, calm, with henna staining his lavish beard, and wearing a camouflage vest, which suggests he is a prisoner of war. He was lucid, and spoke to allude to what he called the prosecution’s hypocrisy in keeping secret details of his years of captivity. He told the court, “The government uses national security as it chooses… Many can kill people under the name of national security, and torture people under the name of national security; and detain underage children under the name of national security.” Referring to the killing of Osama bin Laden, he said, “The president [of the United States] can take someone and throw them into the sea in the name of national security.”

Khalid Sheik Mohammed said that the government feels sad for the killing of 3000 on September 11, noting that we should also feel sorry that the U.S. government, represented here by [chief prosecutor] Gen. Martins, and others, “… Has killed thousands of people.” He corrected himself; “Millions of people.” Your blood is not made of gold and ours is made of water. We are all human beings,” he said. In additional remarks, he referred to drone strikes which have killed many, showing he is aware of ongoing world events.

Mohammed’s defense attorney, David Nevin, has taken the position that the long and harsh interrogation measures used on his client constitute reason for sparing the defendants’ lives. He believes the evidence is important. “Everything that was done was done against his will,” Nevin said, “It was all imposed on him from the outside.” Judge Pohl earlier indicated he is uncertain as to whether he can legally declassify national security information. Defense lawyers make the point that preventing the release of classified information in this case is absurd, inasmuch as the jury and the public are already aware of it.

The other four defendants are Ramzi Binalshibh, the alleged plot cell manager; Walid bin Attash, an alleged Al Qaeda training camp steward; Ammar al Baluchi, aka Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Hawsawi, alleged Al Qaeda financiers. Mohammed and these four co-defendants face charges that include terrorism, conspiracy and 2,976 counts of murder, one count for each known victim of the attacks at the time the charges were filed. The defendants could get the death penalty if convicted.

The trial is at least a year away.

Photo: ChristianScienceMonitor.com

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About John Lake

John Lake had a long and successful career in legitimate and musical theater. He moved up into work behind the camera at top motion pictures. He has done a smattering of radio, and television John joined the Blogcritics field of writers owing to a passion for the liberal press, himself speaking out about the political front, and liberal issues. Now the retired Mr. Lake has entered the field of motion picture, television, and video game (now a daily gamer!) critique. His writing is always innovative and immensely readable!
  • Igor

    It appears that the opinion so widely held among jurisprudence experts that this trial (or these trials) would have been better done in civilian court rather than a military tribunal is right. This thing is turning into a fiasco on every front. The military is simply NOT the right place to try these crimes.

    Civil courts have been much more successful prosecuting terrorism charges than the military. Civilian trials have proceeded steadily and fairly and have had much higher conviction rates. Apparently, most of the enthusiasm for military proceedings was under the assumption that there was a higher probability of satisfying conviction, but such is not the case. In fact, by putting the trial into the clumsy military operation we may have diminished chances of conviction by subjecting everything to untoward political consideration.

    As it is the USA looks like every other comic opera banana republic government that’s put on a show trial with an excess of Generals heavily laden with Golden Braid. A kangaroo court, is what all will say in response to a conviction. Political interference, is what all will say to a dismissal.

    Next thing you know the prosecution will be demanding a torture recess so they can correct any poorly recited witnessing.

  • John Lake

    I appreciate your frustration Pablo, but I might remind you that I am not privy as the mainstream columnists are to a staff of investigators and a store of information from immediate observers. That is to say, I don’t have people on the ground supplying me with rough information. I don’t have a team of ready photographers, and interviewers, and I seldom get invited to a press event.
    What I do, rather, is to examine breaking news from every available viewpoint. I study the American and British press accounts, but also the Asian press, and when possible local reports. The perceptive reader will agree that I often supply more information that the standard press. In addition, I undertake to form some spin, or “take” on the events, that is to say, an editorial opinion, which I state, or understate, or make subtle reference to in my reporting. And all the time, I am striving to make the report interesting and readable. This is not always easy.
    When I see a need for some historical background, I survey the internet available, but there are only so many hours in the day, and often Wikipedia is the quickest source. I define elusive terms, and include maps to make it all easy for the novice and the experienced reader.
    I didn’t think the story on Biden was bland, but there is only so much one can say. Since I try to reach out daily, I sometimes have to go with something less than Earth-shaking. You will note that I was among the first to at least consider that there was some exaggeration as to the vice presidential football career.
    My reports of a liberal blog nature are second to none. My reports years back on the invasion of Iraq, and the role of Haliburton were unexcelled anywhere.
    I have also been informative about the Korean peninsula, and the turmoil in China and the South China Sea.
    Finally, someday the world will agree that there is no such thing as “dark matter” and I will finally get some sleep.

  • pablo

    You are an interesting fellow John. It is too bad that there is not a News section on this website, as your articles would be much better suited there. That being said, you write as if your reporting, when in point of fact your not. Your simply mouthing second hand reports as if they are first person accounts, and I find that style rather repugnant and less than honest. You have no knowledge of anything in this article to be true other than you read it from another source. I would give you a wee bit more credibility if you were to cite your sources.

    I also found your article on Joe Biden several weeks ago bland to the extreme, not to mention the glaring inaccuracies in it. Why don’t you for a change actually opine rather than pretend your a reporter which your obviously not. Reporters report, columnists opine.
    And if you are going to report at least give us the due respect being your readers of actually having first hand knowledge instead of word spinning articles sourced from Wikepedia.