The invaluable Moussaoui trial site at RCFP posted this document in the last few days, in which Moussaoui affirms that six people who the United States has in its custody played critical roles in the 9/11 plot:
- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the operational mastermind of the plot;
- Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, a member of the Hamburg cell and the key facilitator of the plot;
- Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, a financier of the 9/11 attacks;
- Ammar al-Baluchi, a travel and financial facilitator for the plot;
- Walid Muhammad Salih Bin al-Attash, a key deputy to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed;
- Mohammed Manea Ahmad al-Qahtani, the real “twentieth hijacker” whose entry into the United States was denied at Orlando airport.
I’m happy that the U.S. legal system has dealt with Moussaoui, and will be locking him away for life. But for all of his vileness, he was really only a bit player in al-Qaeda and tangential to the 9/11 attacks, in comparison with these six, all of whom bear direct responsibility, and are in U.S. custody today somewhere in the world, held captive in a shadowy, legal gray zone. Are we content to keep them in that condition for the rest of their natural lives? Or are we ever going to bring them to trial and prosecute them in the U.S. civilian or military legal systems for the murder of thousands on 9/11? The same question could be asked for the hundreds of other people detained at Guantanamo and elsewhere in the world.
There needs to be a re-engaged national debate on this question, weighing the possible short-term tactical benefits of holding these people versus the long-term strategic costs in terms of undermining our global reputation as a nation founded on the rule of law and reinforcing the “culture of grievance” that breeds terrorists in the Muslim world.
Update (5/5): Georgetown law professor David Cole tackles this subject in an op-ed in Friday’s Washington Post.