Is The 9/11 Trial Confession An Al-Qaeda Propaganda Coup?


In a genuinely surprising announcement from Guantánamo, the five men accused of plotting and facilitating the 9/11 attacks — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who stated in his tribunal at Guantánamo last March that he was “responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z,” Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Walid bin Attash — have declared at today’s pre-trial hearing that they “request an immediate hearing session to announce our confessions.”

From the top: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Walid bin Attash.

The hearings, which are supposed to last all week, have already attracted significant media attention, partly because relatives of some of the victims of the 9/11 attacks are in attendance, and partly because they were seen as the Bush administration’s last attempt to justify its much-criticized “War on Terror” detention policies. In the run-up to the Presidential election, the Military Commissions had dropped off the media’s radar, and almost no one turned up at Guantánamo in the last week of October when Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, an alleged al-Qaeda propagandist, received a life sentence after a disturbing one-sided show trial in which he refused to mount a defense.

This week’s hearings were widely expected to involve further attempts to resolve some long-standing complaints regarding bin al-Shibh, whose lawyers maintain that he is mentally unfit to stand trial, and al-Hawsawi, whose lawyers contend that he has been bullied by his co-accused. It was also expected that, as in the arraignment in June, and a previous round of pre-trial hearings in September, Mohammed would take the opportunity to dominate the proceedings and to make sly references to his torture at the hands of US forces.

What no one foresaw, however, was that Mohammed would use the global media spotlight to return to another theme that he mentioned during the arraignment six months ago: his desire to be martyred.  And yet this, it seems, is exactly what has happened. The trial’s new judge, Col. Stephen Henley, read from a document that was filed by all five defendants on November 4, the day of the Presidential election, following a number of previously undisclosed meetings between the men.

“We all five have reached an agreement to request from the commission an immediate hearing session in order to announce our confessions … with our earnest desire in this regard without being under any kind of pressure, threat, intimidations or promise from any party,” their statement said.

As Mohammed lived up to expectations, slipping in a reference to torture when, after telling Henley, “I do not trust you,” he added that he didn’t trust an “agreement between Bush and the CIA who tortured me,” Ali Abdul Aziz Ali also spoke out, assuring Henley that all five had reached their decisions willingly. “All of these decisions were undertaken by us without any pressure or influence by Khalid Sheikh,” he said. “What was said or will be said by Khalid Sheikh will be repeated by us, also.”

Quite what this means is not yet clear. As the Guardian explained, “The letter implies they want to plead guilty but does not make clear whether they will admit to any specific charges,” although it does establish that they “wish to drop all previous defense motions.” Bloomberg added that “Henley asked military prosecutors to submit legal briefs on whether the commission can ‘accept a plea of guilty to a capital offense,’” and doubts also remain about the status of bin al-Shibh and al-Hawsawi, who are still represented by military attorneys.

As we await further clarification, I can only wonder if Mohammed and his co-defendants have indeed chosen to focus unerringly on their pursuit of martyrdom, and have decided that their best hope for advancing al-Qaeda’s cause lies in trying to secure a conviction in the tainted Military Commissions of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney before Barack Obama can dismantle them.

This interpretation would seem to be borne out by an additional comment attributed to Mohammed by AFP: “We don’t want to waste time.” And as with every previous occasion when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has had the eyes of the world’s media upon him, I can only wonder who’s really running the show.

UPDATE 11 pm GMT: As suggested above, Col. Henley delayed a verdict on the request by Mohammed and his co-accused, giving lawyers time to investigate whether he is allowed to accept guilty pleas in capital cases, and also whether this would prevent the imposition of the death penalty. He set a deadline of January 5, when the next pre-trial hearings are scheduled to take place, for the lawyers to submit briefs.

In addition, although he accepted the request from Mohammed, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Walid bin Attash, he ruled that competency hearings were required for Mustafa al-Hawsawi and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, because of doubts about their ability to stand trial. As a result, the defendants stated that they would wait until the results of these investigations were known before entering pleas. As Ali Abdul Aziz Ali explained, “Our plea request was based on joint strategy and I would rather wait.”

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

As published on the Huffington Post and AlterNet.

See the following for a sequence of articles dealing with the stumbling progress of the Military Commissions: The reviled Military Commissions collapse (June 2007), A bad week at Guantánamo (Commissions revived, September 2007), The curse of the Military Commissions strikes the prosecutors (September 2007), A good week at Guantánamo (chief prosecutor resigns, October 2007), The story of Mohamed Jawad (October 2007), The story of Omar Khadr (November 2007), Guantánamo trials: where are the terrorists? (February 2008), Six in Guantánamo charged with 9/11 attacks: why now, and what about the torture? (February 2008), Guantánamo’s shambolic trials (ex-prosecutor turns, February 2008), Torture allegations dog Guantánamo trials (March 2008), African embassy bombing suspect charged (March 2008), The US military’s shameless propaganda over 9/11 trials (April 2008), Betrayals, backsliding and boycotts (May 2008), Fact Sheet: The 16 prisoners charged (May 2008), Four more charged, including Binyam Mohamed (June 2008), Afghan fantasist to face trial (June 2008), 9/11 trial defendants cry torture (June 2008), USS Cole bombing suspect charged (July 2008), Folly and injustice (Salim Hamdan’s trial approved, July 2008), A critical overview of Salim Hamdan’s Guantánamo trial and the dubious verdict (August 2008), Salim Hamdan’s sentence signals the end of Guantánamo (August 2008), High Court rules against UK and US in case of Binyam Mohamed (August 2008), Controversy still plagues Guantánamo’s Military Commissions (September 2008), Another Insignificant Afghan Charged (September 2008), Seized at 15, Omar Khadr Turns 22 in Guantánamo (September 2008), Is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Running the 9/11 Trials? (September 2008), two articles exploring the Commissions’ corrupt command structure (The Dark Heart of the Guantánamo Trials, and New Evidence of Systemic Bias in Guantánamo Trials, October 2008), Meltdown at the Guantánamo Trials (five trials dropped, October 2008), The collapse of Omar Khadr’s Guantánamo trial (October 2008), Corruption at Guantánamo (legal adviser faces military investigations, October 2008), An empty trial at Guantánamo (Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, October 2008), Life sentence for al-Qaeda propagandist fails to justify Guantánamo trials (al-Bahlul, November 2008), Guilt by Torture: Binyam Mohamed’s Transatlantic Quest for Justice (November 2008), 20 Reasons To Shut Down The Guantánamo Trials (profiles of all the prisoners charged, November 2008), How Guantánamo Can Be Closed: Advice for Barack Obama (November 2008), More Dubious Charges in the Guantánamo Trials (two Kuwaitis, November 2008), The End of Guantánamo (Salim Hamdan repatriated, November 2008), Torture, Preventive Detention and the Terror Trials at Guantánamo (December 2008), The Dying Days of the Guantánamo Trials (January 2009), Former Guantánamo Prosecutor Condemns Chaotic Trials (Lt. Col. Vandeveld on Mohamed Jawad, January 2009), Torture taints the case of Mohamed Jawad (January 2009), Bush Era Ends with Guantánamo Trial Chief’s Torture Confession (Susan Crawford on Mohammed al-Qahtani, January 2009), Chaos and Lies: Why Obama Was Right to Halt The Guantánamo Trials (January 2009), Binyam Mohamed’s Plea Bargain: Trading Torture For Freedom (March 2009).

And for a sequence of articles dealing with the Obama administration’s response to the Military Commissions, see: Don’t Forget Guantánamo (February 2009), Who’s Running Guantánamo? (February 2009), The Talking Dog interviews Darrel Vandeveld, former Guantánamo prosecutor (February 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough (May 2009), Obama Returns To Bush Era On Guantánamo (May 2009), New Chief Prosecutor Appointed For Military Commissions At Guantánamo (May 2009), Pain At Guantánamo And Paralysis In Government (May 2009), My Message To Obama: Great Speech, But No Military Commissions and No “Preventive Detention” (May 2009), Guantánamo And The Many Failures Of US Politicians (May 2009), A Child At Guantánamo: The Unending Torment of Mohamed Jawad (June 2009), A Broken Circus: Guantánamo Trials Convene For One Day Of Chaos (June 2009), Obama Proposes Swift Execution of Alleged 9/11 Conspirators (June 2009), Obama’s Confusion Over Guantánamo Terror Trials (June 2009).

7 Responses

  1. Rolland Miller says...

    I find this story disturbing when it appears 9/11 was an inside job, or a False Flag Operation.

    Confessions gained as a result of Torture are not reliable.

    There is a lot more to this than has come out so far.

    It may be better to await for Obama to come to power, and further insight.

  2. ¿Quién está dirigiendo Guantánamo? Primeras señales de desacuerdo en el Pentágono… « Guerra Digital para la Resistencia Mental says...

    […] cuando Khalid Sheik Mohammad, el confeso arquitecto del 11-S, que había estado buscando un juicio rápido y el martirio en el desacreditado sistema de las Comisiones, expresó su insatisfacción ante el juez. […]

  3. Guantánamo: Charge Or Release Prisoners, Say No To Indefinite Detention by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] introduced by former Vice President Dick Cheney in November 2001), and to be executed — thereby fulfilling their stated aim of becoming martyrs — without the government having to go through a full trial process. This […]

  4. Execute KSM and the 9/11 Killers — By: Deroy Murdock | Never Look Again! says...

    […] assured Henley that KSM did not coerce his fellow terrorists into confessing. “All of these decisions […]

  5. Execute KSM and the 9/11 Killers — By: Deroy Murdock | Step Down Obama says...

    […] to plead guilty to all charges.“Yes,” KSM replied. “We don’t want to waste time.”Ali assured Henley that KSM did not coerce his fellow terrorists into confessing. “All of these decisions […]

  6. Photomaniacal » Blog Archive » Execute KSM and the 9/11 Killers says...

    […] assured Henley that KSM did not coerce his fellow terrorists into confessing. “All of these decisions […]

  7. Joe G says...

    The parallels to the post WW2 Nazi trials are disturbing. Lots of propaganda driven emotion, absolutely no physical evidence, torture induced confessions, lots of executions.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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