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A 9/11 Trial in New York
This combination of undated photos shows, from left: Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, Waleed bin Attash, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi and Ramzi Binalshibh. Self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other Guantanamo Bay detainees will be sent to New York to face trial in a civilian federal court, an Obama administration official said Friday, Nov. 13, 2009. (AP Photos)

Self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, center, and four other Guantanamo Bay detainees (from left: Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, Waleed bin Attash, Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi and Ramzi Binalshibh) will be sent to New York to face trial in a civilian federal court, the Obama administration announced on Nov. 13, 2009. (AP Photos)

After eight years — on the run, in secret CIA prisons, being water-boarded, in Guantanamo — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is headed to New York City.

The alleged Al Qaeda mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and five others, will go on trial in lower Manhattan, “just blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood,” said Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday.

It will be, without doubt, the trial of this young century. A vindication for American justice, say some. A circus and a threat, say others.

This hour, On Point: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, American justice, and the trial of the century.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Guests:

Evan Perez, reporter for The Wall Street Journal.

John Hutson, former Judge Advocate General of the US Navy (1997-2000). He’s now president and dean of the Franklin Pierce Law Center.

Walter Huffman, former  Judge Advocate General for the U.S. Army (1997 to 2001). He’s dean of the Texas Tech University School of Law.

Josh Gerstein, White House reporter for Politico.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Mansoor Ali

    Is our justice system flawed that we are afraid to try them in our courts? We boast around the world about it (and rightly so) & urge them to follow in our foot steps when it comes to the court systems. This is the best example of showing the world that we are the beacon of justice in this world.

  • DJ

    I’m just curious: is this justice? What evidence do we have on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed other than what we tortured out of him?

    Will he have the discovery rights to examine confidential documents against him? Will have the right to cross-examine witnesses. This seems like a railroad job…vengeance, not justice.

  • http://www.filipinoboston.blogspot.com akilez

    9 years and only now we are prosecuting them. please! it will take another 10 years of tax payer money to put them in jail.

  • Cindy

    When Guantanomo Bay detention center was set up, the USA people were told that the people sent there were “the worst of the worst”. Have ANY of the people sent there been officially convicted of anything – either by military tribunal or any court system?

    I am appalled that so many people were detained for so many *years* without receiving some sort of trial/tribunal. Either we have imprisoned many people with little or weak evidence of wrong-doing, OR we are doing a very poor job of acting on the evidence. Either one is shameful.

  • ezparz

    If a black person kills a white family do you go to the white neighborhood where the victims were from to “fairly” try the defendant??

    Does the Muslim world really think that this is going to be a fair trial? It seems like having the trial in New York mocks the concept of fairness and perpetuates America’s perceived hegemony.

    I’d like to hear an expert’s opinion on the subject.

  • Michael Fairbank

    The NYPD actually does more anti-terrorist work than the FBI. They deal with threats every day. According to an article in the New Yorker a couple of years ago, the NYPD is a resource for the FBI.

  • Steve T

    What a Joke and waste of money. I want the truth! http://pilotsfor911truth.org/

  • Tom Reitano

    Rule of Law is good for everyone. We are the example to the world. You can not have it both ways. They are either fighting a legitimate war or they are criminals. I am proud of the Obama administration. What would be more powerful, what moment could be prouder for America then to respect the rights even of those we hate most? Then if they got life instead of death, I would be even more proud. Because we are living up to our values.

  • http://ThePreambleProject.blogspot.com/ Bill W.

    Biggest thing about this trial, I hope, is that the government will have to prove that 15 or 17 Saudis, and 4 or 5 “others”, including KSM, actually attacked the WTC, the Pentagon, and Shanksville grass. I hope. As hundreds of people note, all of the evidence adduced to prove the “official conspiracy theory” is insufficient to rebut the “alternative conspiracy theory” that the three (3) WTC skyscrapers were brought down by explosives, not “fire and airplane impact.” (Of course, WTC #7 was NOT hit by an airplane, no “fireball of Jet A fuel” (though some seek to implicate tanks of diesel fuel in WTC #7).

    To moi, the biggest unanswered question is: What Happened On 9/11/2001? What caused the three WTC skyscrapers (110, 110 & 47) to collapse. And I think WTC #7 is closer to Federal District Court Dist. 2 than were WTC #1 and #2–if you want to keep using that “stone’s throw” line.

    Further, I remain flummoxed, shocked, even curious, at why it is that no one seems able to recall that, on 9/11/2001, THREE skyscrapers collapsed symmetrically to the ground.

    Not two (2). Three (3). WTC #7 (at 5:20 p.m.), WTC #2 and WTC #1 (a.k.a. “The Towers” or “The Twin Towers”).

    What’s so difficult about that? Phil Zelikow’s novel, “The 9/11 Commission Report,” mentioned WTC #7 five or six times–but not once (1ce)–either in text or footnotes–did Phil note that WTC #7, all 47 stories of it, came down in classic “Controlled Demolition” mode–big boom!s at the base, roof “cracks,” “squibs” show up on the facades, a shock-wave, and then walls collapse on themselves, nothing left standing. At about the same rate/speed a bowling ball, dropped from the same height, would reach the ground unimpeded.

    Is there any way you folks can wrap your heads around the fact that those THREE building collapsed. Or are you happy to support Larry Silverstein’s lagniappe–a demolition of WTC #7 without benefit of a demolition permit?

    And on the distinction: “crime” or “terrorism”. What difference? (And why would be listen to a Texan, Huffman, on this topic. Haven’t we heard enough from Texas? JFK assassination, Bush I, Bush II, Cheney 1 & 2 (Lynn); war profiteers.

    Why give KSM etc., a civilian trial? SO AMERICANS HAVE A CHANCE TO SEE WHAT’S BEING DONE IN OUR NAME. (For Pete’s ache.)

    bw

  • Murl Aldridge

    The Bush administration’s claims that the only way to fight Terrorists is with Armies elevates criminals like KSM to nation state status. I am sure hKSM enjoys that but this approach has cost are nation hundreds of billions of dollars and not made us any safer.

  • Tom Reitano

    We don’t have the money to respect rule of law huh? Oh we don’t have to respect those who are not citizens of the U.S.A. huh?

  • Tom Reitano

    Why would we fear someone having their day in court and choosing to speak out at their trial? The righteous fear no Truth. Perhaps the Government is afraid their foreign policy would be put on trial. What we want to know is if this person on trial is culpable of the crimes that happened on 911.

  • Sad State

    Since when is our judicial system only applied to American Citizens?

    Tom, you have to respond to these people who keep saying non-Americans don’t deserve their day in court!! That claim itself is un-American.

  • William Winder

    Yes these people are terrorists that kill innocent people- they are sick puppies who are fundamental cowards. They have their followers believing that they are martyrs and we do not dispute this vehemently.

    Those who believe that trying them in military is better have it backwards. Yes, we are at war with these terrorists, but we are not at war. War is between 2 or more countries. The terrorists should be treated as vicious common criminals. They do not deserve the glory of being treated as military combatants or being tried in a military court.

  • Susan Reese

    I find it strangely ironic that people scream “foul” if a U.S. citizen abroad is accused of a crime and not afforded a trial, and yet we do the same to foreigners? Can we say “Ugly American”? How can we fight for democracy in the world? Are we practicing what we preach?

  • Raj Chawla

    We should try these people in this country. We can’t just waive our constitution out of fear or anger. We are who we are because of our laws and commitment to justice.

    Financial reasons shouldn’t deter us, security issues shouldn’t deter us.

    We are better than this. We’ll never win hearts and minds by showing the muslim world that we are exactly who they think we are.

    Are we worried about grandstanding? Are we that insecure in our beliefs and our way of life? Let him have his day -let him have his soapbox, we know we are right and we can prove it by following our constitution and treating him like every suspect – try him.

    Raj

  • lily

    The resistance to affording defendants “the same rights as American citizens” is really disturbing. Anyone subject to prosecution by the U.S. judicial system should have the basic rights that are a part of that system – if defendants are in US custody they must have the fundamental rights we extend to citizens. I think the legitimacy of our judicial system depends on respecting these basic rights.

  • Joe

    It’s pretty clear why Republicans are against having the trial in federal courts. They want to hide the issue of torture and who knows what other wrongs were committed under the Bush administration.

  • http://ThePreambleProject.blogspot.com/ Bill W.

    PS: And I sincerely hope that we get a “runaway” jury, where the jurors demand the testimony, under oath, of such folks as Bush II, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Meyers, Rice, Addington, Wolfowitz, Feith (Perle, always good for a laugh), Mueller, etc. (And, for the cover-up, Zelikow, Rice, Kean, Hamilton, etc, etc.)

  • Joe

    We have gone so far through the looking glass in this war that the question is not even being considered, but how would Americans respond if our soldiers (CIA operatives, other officials or even citizens in ANY capacity) were captured and made subject to a foreign government’s criminal courts?

  • Temar

    It is uniquely American to afford people that have committed terrible crimes rights under the law. That is why we are a great country. Why have we forgotten that? Because we are afraid of the terrorists? Then they have really won.

  • Joanna Drzewieniecki

    Please note that the International Criminal Court has been trying people for much greater crimes that 9/11 (note that there are such crimes). There is no reason why fair trails can’t be provided for people in Guantanamo.

  • http://friendsofthebrooklinelibrary.org Jonathan Allen

    It is senseless to talk of how this trial compares to US actions from WWII. The date is now 2009, when the reputation of the US has been dragged through the mud by many irrational acts. If the US is to regain the moral high ground, we must pay the price. As I was told over and over again during the Vietnam war by the hawks: “freedom isn’t free”.

  • Arturo Dalmau

    I am enclosing a long quotation which is quite relevant to the conversation. The source is Glenn Greewald’s column at Salon.com:

    “The British journalist Johann Hari has written an absolutely vital article for The Independent, examining a growing movement of former hardened Islamic militants who are now devoted to teaching a more moderate and less fundamentalist Islam. Hari focuses on understanding what motivates some Muslims to turn to radicalism and terrorism in the first place, and how that process can be reversed. Though these ex-militants have very diverse backgrounds, they all stress two critical facts: (1) the more the foreign policy of the West is seen as aggressive, violent and oppressive to the Muslim world, the easier it is to convert Muslims to violent radicalism, and (2) the most potent weapon for undermining Islamic extremism is the efforts of Westerners to work against their own governments’ belligerent policies:

    To my surprise, the ex-jihadis said their rage about Western foreign policy — which was real, and burning — emerged only after their identity crises, and as a result of it. They identified with the story of oppressed Muslims abroad because it seemed to mirror the oppressive disorientation they felt in their own minds. . . .

    But once they had made that leap to identify with the Umma – the global Muslim community — they got angrier the more abusive our foreign policy came. Every one of them said the Bush administration’s response to 9/11 — from Guantanamo to Iraq — made jihadism seem more like an accurate description of the world. Hadiya Masieh, a tiny female former HT organiser, tells me: “You’d see Bush on the television building torture camps and bombing Muslims and you think — anything is justified to stop this. What are we meant to do, just stand still and let him cut our throats?”

    But the converse was — they stressed — also true. When they saw ordinary Westerners trying to uphold human rights, their jihadism began to stutter. Almost all of them said that they doubted their Islamism when they saw a million non-Muslims march in London to oppose the Iraq War: “How could we demonise people who obviously opposed aggression against Muslims?” asks Hadiya.”

  • Tom Reitano

    We ad heard to the Rule of Law not for others but for ourselves.

  • http://ThePreambleProject.blogspot.com/ Bill W.

    PS2: On the topic of “giving non-citizens” rights?

    Heck, we’ve TAKEN AWAY US constitutional rights FROM AMERICAN CITIZENS. Already. Huston’s got my votes on these topic.

    (Military commissions? A JOKE!!! These are, vis-a-vis US citizens, star chamber proceedings: secret, private, And Huffman, IMHO, is a lesser joke. US as “the great satan”: Read Noam Chomsky. The US i s a great satan–as is/was the UK, Turkey, Germany, Japan, (etc.).)

    Oooooh, “methods and sources” “state secrets privilege.” Huffman, go away–all this evidence must be produced. And it won’t hurt our “methods and sources” — all of the foreign nations know what they are. It’s just the Americans who are kept in the dark.

  • Chris

    These terrorists have absolutely no right to OUR courts!
    They are NOT citizens of the United States.
    Mr. Obama is wasting our time, and money we do not have, on a man who admits to killing our people.
    Why does Mr. Obama insist on putting a bulls eye on New Yorkers back!?!

  • Honey Donegan

    Simplify. The U.S. has had a Unibomber, Columbine, the D.C. sniper, disgruntled employees from various companies, etc.. Each of these acts was an act of “terrorism” as defined by the dictionary – some did it for glory, some for bigotry and some out of anger. The U.S. had jails on the mainland for these terrorists. The civilian government put them on trial and they were found guilty. Time consuming, yes. Expensive, yes. But the right thing to do.

    It’s too bad they cannot have trials in Pennsylvania, D.C. and New York.

  • Steve Tiffany

    For this to be a fair trial, the defense would need to bring out the overwhelming evidence for controlled demolition, which Al-Qaeda lacked the resources to commit. But the defendants crave martyrdom and jihadi street cred, so both sides benefit from the fiction of their sole responsibility.

  • Erik Peterson

    Surely if freedom, democracy and justice are values that define something quintessentially American, we believe in them enough as a nation to apply them universally. If we do not or will not, these become empty words. When we do not or will not, we offend the memories of the generations of Americans who have died in the belief that those values were worth defending and we as a nation abdicate any claim to hold those values as our own. This is why we as a nation cannot condone torture. This is why we as a nation cannot condone wars of aggression. This is why we as a nation must without exception extend to even those accused of the most heinous crimes, regardless of nation of origin, the right to habeus corpus, the right to face their accuser(s), the right to a fair and speedy trial, and the right to a competent and vigorous defence.

  • Tom Reitano

    If we are at war with Islamic terrorists as Giuliani says then what is next, will we be at ‘ war ‘ with drug users and deny them Constitutional rights? The Constitution is function not only protects my rights, but I believe it also defines what Government can and can’t do. And that protects everyone.

  • Jonathan Howard

    Conceptions of universal justice are central to both Islam and to American democracy. I believe American ideas of justice and self-government deserve and can win adoption by the rest of the world, including rising generations throughout the middle east. But only if we show the courage to live by them.

    As I tuned this program in, I heard talk radio on other stations burning up with forecasts of apocalypse should the trials occur. These people have lost the courage to live by the Consitution of the United States.

  • http://facebook betty labombard

    We can deny them their martyrdom simply by denying them the death penalty.To our shame we are one of the few remaining democratic nations in the world with a death penalty.

  • Ken Walling

    What happened when Ramzi Yousef, Mahmud Abouhalima, Mohammad Salameh, Nidal Ayyad, Abdul Rahman Yasin and Ahmad Ajaj detonated their “bomb” in the garage of the World Trade Center? We tried them in a U.S. court. We gave them rights and their day in court. The only difference between then and 9/11 is that the 9/11 hijackers were more successful. If we profess that we stand for justice, we need to provide for justice no matter what.

    I agree wholeheartedly with other comments, since when do we have one set of justice for domestic criminals and another for foreign criminals? I also agree that one of the problems is obtaining a fair trial but we need to make it as fair as possible while maintaining what the United States stands for. Too costly? Since when has cost been part of the rules of justice?

  • millard-fillmore

    ” Though these ex-militants have very diverse backgrounds, they all stress two critical facts: (1) the more the foreign policy of the West is seen as aggressive, violent and oppressive to the Muslim world, the easier it is to convert Muslims to violent radicalism, and (2) the most potent weapon for undermining Islamic extremism is the efforts of Westerners to work against their own governments’ belligerent policies:

    To my surprise, the ex-jihadis said their rage about Western foreign policy — which was real, and burning — emerged only after their identity crises, and as a result of it. They identified with the story of oppressed Muslims abroad because it seemed to mirror the oppressive disorientation they felt in their own minds. . . .”

    ==

    And what do these ex-jihadis have to say about Muslims persecuting non-Muslims just because they (non-Muslims) are not of their (Muslims) religion?
    Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have written many reports on how the Ahmaddiyas are persecuted in Pakistan, and non-Muslim minorities hardly get any rights in Muslim majority countries and are treated as second-class citizens. I wonder whether these injustices and violation of human rights by fellow-Muslims make these self-righteous jihadis angry or not. Or since such injustice meted out to non-Muslims is backed up by their holy books, that makes it “not injustice”.

  • W.D. Perdue

    What are the opponents of a trial in the venue where the atrocities occurred afraid of? Perhaps it is that the political storm on the reactionary side has little to do with “rights for terrorists.” The fear is that in this trial for mass murder, the defense must present evidence of state torture perpetrated against their clients. Might this road lead to the former vice-president and his merry band?

  • ~L~

    It’s about time our nation practiced what it preaches. We bounce around the globe touting our version of democracy & telling everyone how great our system & way of doing things is. Mr. Obama just told the Chinese that we think everyone is entitled to certain freedoms even though it isn’t our business to tell other nations how to run their country. So, it’s time for the US to put up or shut up! If it’s good enough for us, & we think our system (or at least its premise) should be implemented in “their” countries, then it’s good enough for them. And the crime was ultimately committed on our soil. We prosecute non-Americans in our system all the time. This is just a very high profile case & one of extreme importance.
    Personally, I hope we can learn a lot about who paid him. I hope he leads us to the very top.

  • ~L~

    I thought our principals say that EVERYone is entitled to a fair trial & EVERYone is entitled to representation. That’s how we supposedly think, isn’t it?
    Isn’t that what we preach to everyone around the globe?
    Why is it all of a sudden only for Americans & not everyone?

    I think most Americans don’t even know or understand what it is our Constitution, our founding fathers, our government, our courts & all those men & women who preserve all those things for us stand for.

    Perhaps this is due to the downfall in our education system. But people yelling about this guy not being an American just sounds ignorant, hypocritical & 180 opposite what we’re supposed to stand for & believe in as being American principals.

  • Mark S.

    All I can say is that the picture that greeted me when I clicked over to the On Point homepage was the best example of a “special kind of ugly” I have ever seen. It looks like a maniacal marionnette prop from “Team America: World Police.” Godawful…

  • Eddie

    The defense in a federal trial will try to make terrorists look like victims of a evil CIA and a evil George W. Bush. Obama is more interested in doing just that. I think he would rather send Bush, Limbaugh, and Fox News to a military tribunal that he would with these terrorists.

  • Todd

    It took eight years for this case to come to trial? It seems the wheels of injustice also grind slowly. Every aspect of this 9/11 fiasco is a complete propaganda farce.

  • david

    The only way for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Remove the evil from your midst, and all will hear of it and fear.
    America has no belly for removing evil from its midst, so one day evil will overtake America. From some of these post we are well on our way.
    These terrorist should be glad they will be tried in USA in our Federal courts. They will NEVER get the death sentence. They instead will spend the rest of their lives in a Federal prison at $25,000+ per year cost to taxpayer in a condition that may be better than the place they were born in.
    If they have a really good defense lawyer, they may get off scott free and sue the crap out of us panty weight Americans. Hostile site for trial, no miranda rights given, torture plea, a jury that must consist of their peers, meaning Muslims who will not convict their hero,
    bleeding heart Americans who think crushed, burned 3,000 Americans who died cruel and inhumane deaths on 9/11 is not enough to warrant the death sentence.
    If these men did this act, send them to Allah! The mastermind states he did, so give him his wish.
    I am a person who believes in justice, mercy where mercy is due and severity where severity is due. Evil people no longer fear our justice system and I can see why, all bark and no bite. My parents grew up with the doors unlocked at their house without fear of evil
    people, I live in fear with doors locked and alarm systems. I know the evil people who are around me. My fear each day is when will they come.

  • Rick T.

    “He that would keep his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression. If he fails in this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.”

    Thomas Paine

  • Peter Pjecha Jr.

    “I believe that Kalide Sheikh Mohammed and all those of his particular and pernicious ilk, should be henceforth swiftly and justly tried in an American court of law be it military or civil … in fact and in deed wherever we choose to try them, be it Guantanamo Bay Cuba, or The Big Apple itself—then found guilty and hung by the neck until dead, with a thick Iowa pork chop in his mouth.”

  • hans

    I think that Khalid should be tried at the International Criminal court in the Hague. It would prove our role as a global leader in democratic reform. Furthermore it would prove that the evidence gathered is significant enough in both a biased New York city courtroom and an international courtroom. Finally the criminality of September 11th is far greater than the repercussions in NYC he is directly responsible for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, that blood could also said to be on his hands.

  • Mark S.

    I keep thinking, what could be living in that beard and what must it smell like? How does that guy get dates? Don’t goats have a sense of smell?

  • BrettG

    1) Glenn%20Greenwald%20-%20Salon.com.webarchive – on right wing kowtow to the terrorists.

    Also – Read the statute @ Findlaw 18 USC Chapter 113B secs. 2131 on defining terrorism as a criminal act, but not a war crime.

    The Bushies and their DOJ have tried to destroy the Fed courts. Only these trials will show the world that we have returned to a nation of laws, not despots.

    SDNY is far more secure now & the whole Foley SQ area is close to lock down everyday now.

  • MIchael

    david,

    so your saying your scared our justice department and court of law will fail, scared of the terrorist are going to get scott free. So your willing to throw away our values, our constitutions, our rights to sink to there level, sink to there methods. This is not good vs evil its evil.

    Why are conservatives scared you ask?

    1. cause they broke our laws and twisted our constitution to try and get information. Which they are aware that it can’t be used in court. And more information was acquired using by the book methods instead

    2. They only believe in our court system if it fits there needs otherwise there fine with breaking the law to achieve there ends.

    3. The media and RNC plays on such weakness.controlling there thinking

    4. There aware the action of the bush admin i.e. torture is against the Geneva convention so they try there best to deny them any rights and shut them up so the truth is not found out.

    5. There aware that if these men are tried and put in jail they can’t use them for the never ending war on terror.

    Stand up to these terrorist and stop being p@$$ys on this, bring them to court and let our justice department work instead of continually usurping our constitution while saying your protecting it.

    Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

  • Todd

    @the girl

    I’m with ya on this one.

  • david

    michael,
    Watch the outcome of this so-called trial of the century. These terrorist have our constitution on their side now. A good defense lawyer will use all the screw-ups made to these poor terrorist to get them no more than life in a federal prison like the blind cleric who tried it in 93,I think. What crime do you think would justify the death sentence? I am all for trying them and punishing them. I have news for you, your Liberty and Safety is slowing being taken away from you and most people can not see it coming. Terrorist do not hate us for our politics, their reason goes back centuries.

  • Mike

    These experts provided a woefully inferior discussion of the actual legal questions involved in where the U.S. is REQUIRED, whether under its own or international law, OR NOT, to try suspects of international terrorism. There ust obviously be various categories of suspect based on location of act, arrest, etc. that determine trial forum requirements. Where is the dispassionate analysis of these questions? Instead, we get emotional, political, and practical arguments from both sides: exactly the considerations that should not determine these outcomes. Better experts, please.

  • Janet

    I wish the radicals like the AG would just go away from the Democratic party. This decision is a disaster and he just painted a target on NYC.

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