9/11 Mastermind May Not Get Death Penalty In Possible Plea Deal

Five of the terrorists who committed the 9/11 attacks could avoid the death penalty and remain in the high-security prison at Guantanamo indefinitely, CBS News confirmed Sunday.

Chief defendant and self-avowed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as well as four others, Ramzi Binalshibh, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, Walid bin Attash and Ammar al-Baluchi, are accused of aiding the hijackers who crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, killing nearly 3,000 Americans. Their charges carry the death penalty, but attorneys have entered talks with prosecutors to reach a possible plea deal that would see the defendants incarcerated in the Guantanamo Bay facility for life, CBS News reported.

“All five defendants and the government are all engaged in good faith negotiations, with the idea of bringing this trial which has become a forever trial to an end,” James Connell, a defense attorney for al-Baluchi, told CBS News.

Connel said al-Baluchi would concede to pleading guilty to a “substantial sentence at Guantanamo” in an upcoming trial in a special military court in exchange for evading the death penalty and medical care for alleged torture under CIA interrogators, according to CBS News.

“The families are outraged,” Debra Burlingame, sister of American Airlines Flight 77 pilot Charles “Chic” Burlingame, who died in the hijacking, told CBS News, referring to the families of those who perished in the attacks. Burligame said she had spoken with family members.

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“They don’t want closure, they want justice.”

The New York Times first reported that prosecutors had initiated negotiations with the attorneys for the five terrorists in March that would put a final end to the case. Although the defendants were arraigned in 2012, the case has been frozen in the pretrial stage due to delayed access to CIA documents, the COVID-19 pandemic and disputes over whether evidence obtained from the defendants under conditions of extreme duress should be considered in the hearings.

The CIA subjected the five defendants to “enhanced interrogation techniques” before their transfer to Guantanamo in 2006, which some say amounted to torture. Critics say the defendants’ experiences of extreme interrogation tactics should make judges more favorable to an abrogated sentence.

9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, an advocacy group for nonviolent responses to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, said in March that a guilty plea and agreement to waive execution “would be partly in recognition of the torture each of the defendants experienced” and bring “some measure of judicial finality.”

“The United States government failed all of us after Sept. 11 in their decisions to use illegal techniques and illegal programs,” Alka Pradhan, who also represents al-Baluchi, told CBS News. “In doing so, it rather corrupted all the legal processes.”

Pradhan told CBS that al-Baluchi had sustained lasting brain damage.

The Office of Military Commissions, the Department of Justice, Connell and Pradhan did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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