Mastermind behind 9/11 attacks to face trial

Insight

Khalid Sheik Mohammad’s path to Guantanamo Bay has spanned more than 11 years, and stretched over three continents. Known as the mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Sheik Mohammad, or KSM, will finally face trial before a military commission at the U.S. military installation at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. CCTV America’s Jim Spellman reported this story from Washington, D.C.

Mastermind behind 9/11 attacks to face trial

Khalid Sheik Mohammad's path to Guantanamo Bay has spanned more than 11 years, and stretched over three continents. Controversy has plagued the process the entire way. CCTV America's Jim Spellman reported this story from Washington, D.C.

Retired Air Force Colonel Morris Davis was in charge of prosecutions at the U.S. military installation in Cuba known as Gitmo from 2005-2007. He says Mohammad’s guilt is not in question.

“He was very proud of what he did and at every opportunity he has he was more than anxious to stand up and take credit. His objective was to be executed,” Davis said. “I mean he wants the death penalty. He wants to become a martyr.”

The problems that hindered Mohammed’s prosecution began after he was captured by Pakistani intelligence officers in 2003. Instead of being turned over to the FBI, or the U.S. military, KSM and other high value targets were turned over to the CIA and taken to what secret prisons, also known as black sites.

“Many of them were subjected to I think what most reasonable human beings would call torture,” Davis said.

The Bush administration claimed the interrogation techniques were legal, but they feared a U.S. civilian court would disagree. So in 2006, U.S. authorities sent KSM to Guantanamo Bay to be tried as an enemy combatant before a special military commission, without all the constitutional rights afforded to criminal defendants in the U.S. civilian courts.

“They thought it would be swift, severe and secret.” Davis said. “And of course you know history has shown that that didn’t pan out.”

Against objections from human rights groups the trial began in 2008, but in 2009 newly-elected U.S. President Barack Obama decided to move the trial to civilian court in New York. This was met with fierce political resistance and the plan was scrapped, forcing prosecutors to start over again at Gitmo.

Davis says KSM will get a fair trial, but this long march towards justice comes at a cost for the U.S.

“Even if you gave Khalid Sheikh Mohammed the most perfect trial in the history of jurisprudence, given the stain of Guantanamo and military commissions, and all the baggage that has accumulated over the last 12 or 13 years, the vast majority of the world is never going to believe that it’s credible,” Davis said.

Mohammad faces a death sentence if found guilty, but the commission may decline his avowed wish for martyrdom and sentence him to life in a U.S. military prison.