What If the Biggest Risk ISN’T Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Giving Speeches?

The guy who covered up CIA’s torture, Jose Rodriguez, worries that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed might give a speech during the course of his military commission.

Although he acted defiantly in court, Rodriguez said KSM would like nothing more than a forum to preach radical Islam.

“This is a process that will continue for a long time,” Rodriguez said. “I have heard he may plead not guilty, and if he does, he’ll use the [legal] process as his platform . . . to talk about his jihadist beliefs.”


“It seemed to us that he was looking for a platform from which he could spout his hatred for all things American, and a trial would certainly present that opportunity,” Rodriguez writes. “It strikes me as more than a little ironic that several years later, Attorney General Eric Holder almost granted KSM his wish.”

Ironically, Rupert’s rag decided to plug these Rodriguez fears the day after KSM and his co-defendants tied up the military commission in knots not by speaking, but by remaining silent.

Judge [James] Pohl turns to Mohammed’s attorneys and his right to counsel. Mr. Mohammed, he says, pursuant to the Manual for Military Commissions, you are today represented by two military lawyers, Derek Poteet and Jason Wright, your detailed counsel. Do you understand this?

There’s a pause – the first of many, as we’ll soon see – as the court and counsel wait for the defendant’s responds.  KSM doesn’t give one, and Judge Pohl notes as much. Very well, he continues, detailed counsel will be provided to you.

No response.

Pohl adds that Mohammed also has the option to request different military counsel; Mohammed has the right to ask the Office of the Chief Defense Counsel to provide any lawyer from its staff, to the extent they are available.

Crickets again from Mohammed.

If, Judge Pohl goes on, your request for different military attorneys is approved, then Poteet and Wright no longer will be available to represent you. Do you understand this?


Pohl next asks if Mohammed wants a different military lawyer than that detailed.

No answer.

The sole comment from the defendants, apparently, came from Ramzi bin al-Shibh.

In this court appearance, the only verbal outburst came from Bin al Shibh, who blurted at one point that the prison camp leadership was just like Moammar Gadhafi, the slain Libyan dictator.

When the judge tried to hush Bin al Shibh, explaining the accused would be given a chance to speak later, the Yemeni replied: “Maybe they are going to kill us and say that we are committing suicide.”

Bin al-Shibh’s comments may reflect a remarkable access to and analysis of damning news coverage. But they don’t amount to the kind of propagandistic diatribe that was one reason cowards like Chuck Schumer fought having this trial in a civilian court in Manhattan.

I have no idea how the silent treatment on the part of the defendants will affect the legitimacy of the 9/11 military commission. I would think victims’ families might grow impatient with our justice system, with potentially troublesome consequences, while the many international observers might view the whole thing as a bigger clusterfuck than the Slobodan Milošević trial. Repeated efforts to censor the defendants’ lawyers from mentioning the torture we know Jose Rodriguez’ torturers inflicted may focus more attention on that torture.

There was a time when pundits were talking about what a great display of American institutions and rule of law a trial would be for KSM and the other 9/11 plotters. That may still happen. Or, it may be that the silent treatment will serve to focus attention on America’s shame and fear instead of our well-established and laudable civilian judicial system–what was once our pride.

Compare all that to the UndieBomber, who may have none of KSM’s evil guile, but even still had his 15 minutes of fame–the soapbox for radical jihad that Jose Rodriguez cowers in fear of–pass almost unnoticed.

The government could have meted justice to KSM by now, had it shown minimal courage of conviction and belief in our institutions. Instead, the world may well see America’s embarrassing embrace of ad hoc justice instead of the institutions that once made us great. And that may be far more damning than anything KSM might have to say.

15 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    Some of the victims’ families have made it clear they won’t be happy unless the defendants get the death penalty. (That isn’t justice, that’s revenge. They might get their wish anyway, because the court is a setup.)

  2. Bob Schacht says:

    “I would think victims’ families might grow impatient with our justice system, with potentially troublesome consequences…”

    Yes, and along the lines of P J Evans’ comment @1. The victim’s families are indeed probably looking for revenge above all else. They probably know little about the things which have made our system of justice great (not always in evidence today.) The danger is, at least in part, that public impatience with the trial will open the gates for even more egregious assaults on Constitutional protections.

    I hope what will happen is that KSM will prove more clever than the prosecution lawyers in that he will use the trial, not to spew radical Islamic diatribes, but to make public the torture that they have experienced. In fact, if I knew how, I’d slip a copy of Judge Robert Jackson’s speeches to him and his lawyer.

    I’ve heard that pleading “Not guilty” will force a Discovery process during which this dirty linen can be aired. I seem to recall that last year(?), the DOJ was trying to arrange a settlement with KSM, exactly to prevent the possibility of any discovery proceedings. Maybe even Jose Rodriguez will be hoist on his own petard. But I fear that this is the beginning of the last Act in a play on the end of America as we knew it.

    Geez, even Nixon’s DOJ had better people among its senior staff (Archie Cox, Elliot Richardson, and Bill Ruckelshaus) than Obama’s DOJ seems to have.

    Bob in AZ

  3. Bustednuckles says:

    So, what would you have to say after being tortured, imprisoned for years and treated like they were and then wind up in a Kangaroo court?

    My only statement would have been to tell them to take a big suck outta my ass.

    Terrorists or not, this whole thing has been a giant clusterfuck of unimaginable scale with some sonsabitches in our government that were afraid of being exposed for the fucking war criminals they are doing their damnedest to try and cover their asses by kicking the can down the road.

    It’s show time bitches.

    This should have been over with years ago.

  4. Rirer Capital says:

    This is the War on Terror’s “Nuremberg”, second time as farce. Over a decade of nonstop propaganda, war, torture, and the annihilation of civil liberties, a crime spree, has debased America as much as the aggressive looting of investment banks. Scary that we’ve yet to hit bottom. No accountability, no justice, no end in sight.

  5. GKJames says:

    Your reference to courage gets to the heart of the entire post-9/11 enterprise. It’s something that, along with incompetence of Bush et al, merits scrutiny for that’s where the origins of the pathology can be found.

    The country lacked nothing in terms of the law enforcement and judicial infrastructure and expertise to treat 9/11 for what it was: a criminal act perpetrated by sociopaths. Justice could and would’ve been served in spades.

    Instead, so afraid have been the powers-that-be of their own impotence — the swagger in direct correlation, naturally — that, over the course of a decade, they’ve gutted public accountability and, by extension, brought law itself into disrepute. Quite an accomplishment, and surely far more than their fellow sociopaths imagined.

  6. dustbunny44 says:

    @Bustednuckles: Entirely possible he’s been tortured/conditioned to not respond in these circumstances. They are all about breaking minds, and one could even question if KSM is legally present while he’s there at the trial.

    In any case, they could take a clue from the Norwegians who are trying their mass murderer yet managing to keep his white racist rants off the news pages.

  7. Tom Allen says:

    ‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first – verdict afterwards.’ — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll: Chapter 12

    What would you do if you knew you were to be executed no matter what you did? After having been tortured over 100 times? Cooperate? Smile for the cameras?

    It’s almost as if such barbaric treatment by our own government is counterproductive. But no, I guess that can’t be the lesson we’re supposed to learn. It certainly doesn’t seem to be one we’re capable of learning.

  8. thatvisionthing says:

    @quake: I don’t know, PJ’s parentheses made me realize I haven’t seen BoxTurtle comments lately — ?

  9. orionATL says:

    jose rodriguez is scared of his illegal actions and those of cia operatives he supervised in torturing folks like ksm (how many times did ew discover that ksm had been water-boarded in one month?).

    rodriguez wants to cover all bases to be sure that no detainee can ever speak publicly about being tortured.

    these rodriguez claims are another of his many lies – some of which are designed to hide his criminal liability; others of which are designed to cover up the fact that torture provided mountains of unreliable information and led to an unwarranted invasion and war in iraq –

    perhaps the greatest crime a group of american officials have ever committed in our 280 year history.

    none of this should be any surprise. we’ve heard it all before, in the form of the great need for military commissions to try these folks and to incarcerate them, tongueless, for the rest of their lives.

    we’ve heard it from huckleberry graham and sidekicks, from darth cheney and baby cheney, et al., who have turned legal arguments into pretzels in order to keep the true about the presence of and the unreliability of the cheney-bush torturing.

  10. Jeff Kaye says:

    With the hideous circus masquerading as justice, parading emotional legitimacy from the presence of the agonized relatives of some of those who died in the 9/11 terror attacks, and burying any judicial legitimacy in the form of jerry-rigged proceedings and a mockery of due process with the death penalty on the line, there is much to be gained from a re-opening in the press (if it is in fact capable of this) of the whole case against KSM.

    Besides the entire issue of torture (which I for certain do not wish to minimize), there is the whole question of how and when KSM was identified. There is a great deal of uncertainty as to when and how the US first learned about KSM, his nickname “Mukhtar”, etc., as just this one article from 2006 by Media Matters points out: http://mediamatters.org/print/research/200609090002

    Then there is the fact that military intelligence, in the form of Joint Forces Intelligence Command, knew enough about KSM to have identified his whereabouts prior to summer 2001, per the former deputy head of JFIC’s Asymmetric Threats Division. The work tracking KSM, OBL, etc. was shut down by JFICs Commander, who apparently later became head of the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, 2006-10. (The latter is part of a study I have in progress.) — But then, US intelligence and law enforcement knew about KSM in the early 1990s.

    KSM is linked via his nephew, Ramzi Yousef, to the original WTC bombing. Yousef appeared on the scene after an FBI informant (Emad Salem) involved in making the 1993 bomb for the 1st WTC bombing was pulled from the plot only weeks before, and Yousef substituted by the plotters. What luck for KSM! (and bad luck for the rest of us).

    KSM was secretary to Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, who, according to this MJ article, received millions of dollars in aid from Saudi Arabia and the CIA during the “jihad” against the Soviets. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2009/05/your-tax-dollars-war

    KSM’s relatives keep disappearing: his brother Zahid, his own children, the missing years of a relative via marriage, Aafia Siddiqui, etc.

    More issues: KSM’s purported links to the ISI in the early 1990s. My guess is that any mystery around KSM lies in the US-Pakistani axis.

    Whatever the actual background of KSM, like Bin Laden and a host of others, a full examination of their backgrounds via the kinds of evidence a real trial might bring, is short-circuited via military commission, although not as dramatically as the Obama administration’s newly preferred method, assassination. What the public is kept from realizing is the extent to which US machinations in the Middle East and Southern and Central Asia, meant that it was often engaged with very unsavory “allies” among the jihadists and the Pakistani and Saudi religious and political leaders (and spy agencies).

    We are still living through the blowback of the Cold War, and the rush to gain total US supremacy in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union, as the former anti-Soviet allies (no surprise) had agendas all of their own, but now had the training that came with former alliance with US Special Forces, Pentagon and CIA, not to mention the political legitimacy, as these people often came to power (Saddam Hussein, btw, comes to mind) by being butchers in the violent suppression of the left in their respective countries.

    The US continues its alliance with the Pakistani state primarily as a bulwark against Chinese (and Russian) influence. Great power politics, while for the public, it all plays out as a war against “terrorism”.

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