By Jim Kouri
After more than 10 years since the worst terrorist act on U.S. soil killed 3,000 people in the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon building in Washington, DC and an isolated field in Pennsylvania, the U.S. Defense Department on Wednesday officially announced the charges against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of 9/11, and four others who were allegedly involved in those devastating attacks in 2001.
The charges had been referred to a military commission by Attorney General Eric Holder when an intense controversy erupted over the case of “United States v. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin’Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi.”
President Barack Obama and Holder originally wished to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — a/k/a KSM –and the others in federal court in New York City, but a tidal wave of criticism forced Holder to announce that KSM’s and the other suspects’ cases would be adjudicated by a military commission.
The U.S. government attorneys — both civilian and military — claim there’s an abundance of evidence that will prove the five terrorist suspects are responsible for the planning and execution of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in New York, Washington D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The five suspects are facing charges of terrorism, hijacking aircraft, conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians and civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, and the destruction of property in violation of the law of war, according to a law enforcement source monitoring the KSM prosecution.
Pentagon officials have referred all charges to a joint trial, according to the Law Enforcement Examiner source who requested anonymity.
According to Military Commission’s rules and procedures, the chief judge of the Military Commission Trial Judiciary will assign a military judge to the case, and the five accused will be arraigned at the Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within 30 days.
Pentagon officials also said the case was referred to a capital military commission, meaning if convicted, the five accused could be sentenced to death. It also said the defendants have been provided counsel with specialized knowledge and experience in death penalty cases in a bid to assist them in their defense.
At the same time, the Obama White House on Wednesday promised to honor its commitment to close the vilified terrorist prison facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced during his daily briefing Wednesday afternoon that U.S. President Barack Obama “remains committed to shutting down Guantanamo Bay,” as well as “ensuring those who were accused of perpetrating 9/11 attacks against the United States were brought to justice.”
Carney admitted “there have obviously been obstacles” in shutting down the prison facility, but Obama “remains committed to doing that.”
During his promise-filled election campaign, candidate Obama said his administration would shut the Guantanamo Bay prison facility within one year of taking office. But President Obama has failed to keep that promise, say critics.
“President Obama learned quickly that being a Commander in Chief in a time of war is more difficult than he expected. Quite simply, it’s more complicated than writing a campaign speech full of empty promises,” said political strategist and attorney Michael Baker.