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September 6, 2023

Prez Biden reportedly involved in rejecting plea deal terms for 9/11 defendants

As reported in this New York Times piece, "President Biden has rejected a list of proposed conditions sought by the five men who are accused of conspiring in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in exchange for pleading guilty and receiving a maximum punishment of life in prison, according to two administration officials."  Here is more about reported presidential involvement in the prosecution of notorious criminals:

An offer by military prosecutors, made in March 2022, that would spare them death sentences if they admitted to their alleged roles in the hijackings, remains on the table, officials said. But Mr. Biden’s decision to reject additional conditions lessens the likelihood of reaching such a deal....

The White House was asked to weigh in on a proposed plea agreement about a year and a half ago. In talks with prosecutors, defense lawyers said Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind, and four other defendants wanted certain accommodations, including assurances they would not serve their sentences in solitary confinement and could instead continue to eat and pray communally — as they do now as detainees at Guantánamo Bay.

The prisoners also sought a civilian-run program to treat sleep disorders, brain injuries, gastrointestinal damage or other health problems they attribute to the agency’s brutal interrogation methods during their three to four years in C.I.A. custody before their transfer to Guantánamo Bay in 2006.

An agreement to meet such conditions for the detainees, potentially for the rest of their lives, carried major policy implications likely beyond the authority of a criminal court or a particular team of prosecutors.

But the White House has been leery of involvement in the case, which is politically fraught. Some relatives of the 3,000 victims want a trial with the prospect, however distant, of having the perpetrators of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil sentenced to death. Others oppose the death penalty on principle, have no faith in the tribunal system, or have become resigned to the idea that, because the defendants were tortured by C.I.A., capital punishment is unlikely.

More than a year passed as prosecutors awaited an answer on whether the administration would consent to the proposed conditions, referred to as joint “policy principles” in court filings. A filing on Wednesday, which came just days before the 22nd anniversary of the attacks, indicated that the administration had finally said it would not.

“The administration declines to accept the terms of the proposed joint policy principles offered by the accused in the military commissions case, United States v. Mohammed, et al,” prosecutors said in the filing, according to someone who had been shown a copy. It was not yet posted on the Pentagon’s war court website.

Mr. Biden, according to the officials familiar with the matter, adopted a recommendation by the defense secretary, Lloyd J. Austin III. The court filing does not offer a rationale for rejecting the proposed conditions, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter.

One official said Mr. Biden did not believe the proposals, as a basis for a plea deal, would be appropriate, and the other cited the egregious nature of the attacks. But Mr. Biden took no position on the general notion that a plea deal could eliminate the possibility of death sentences. At a military commission, a senior Pentagon official, called a convening authority, oversees the cases and decides such questions....

Prosecutors had been explaining the mechanics of admitting guilt in court proceedings in exchange for life sentences in meetings with small groups of family members in New York, Boston and Florida since at least May. They sent out a two-page letter to reach a wider group last month. “It cannot be overstated that a guilty plea is conclusive evidence of guilt,” it said.

The possibility of a deal stirred emotions among the relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks — both those who envisioned a trial and death sentence and those who wanted a resolution that would not face the possibility of an appeal.

September 6, 2023 at 10:21 PM | Permalink


It seems incongruous that the U. S. Government would seek and obtain the death penalty for Timothy McVeigh's crimes arising out of the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing (168 dead), and not also obtain the death penalty for the masterminds and principle actors behind the 9/11 attacks which killed more than 3,000 people, in an unprovoked act of war by foreign nationals on American soil (or in the air). Of course, the C.I.A. and Executive branch actors serving between 2001 and 2006 (when the defendants were transferred to GITMO) may have screwed this all up by torturing those men at Black Site prisons around the world for several years. There are serious Constitutional problems with trying to use admissions and information provided while the subject was undergoing torture during a trial, even one under a Military Tribunal. If anyone ever deserved the death penalty, it is K.S.M., the true mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Even if these men receive life sentences, they fear being incarcerated in perpetual solitary confinement at the SuperMax prison (USP-ADX) located in Florence, Colorado (where they even have a "Bomber's Row"), or somewhere like it, perhaps even such a unit constructed at GITMO itself.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Sep 7, 2023 10:32:49 AM

We are tying ourselves in knots with absurd rules. The correct sentence is beyond obvious.

Posted by: William C Jockusch | Sep 7, 2023 11:27:51 PM

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