First the Circus and Then the 9/11 Trial

Walid bin Attash used to frequent online dating sites. “Loves to travel — sometimes at a moment’s notice,” bin Attash described himself before his 2003 capture. So writes former CIA veteran Jose Rodriguez in his new book, “Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives.”

On Saturday, bin Attash was one of five defendants charged with 2,976 counts of murder for their role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It would seem that bin Attash has grown very devout at Guantanamo Bay. His civilian attorney, Cheryl Bormann, wore a hijab and an abaya at the military pretrial hearing. She even suggested that female prosecutors dress in more “appropriate” fashion in deference to the defendants’ “fear of committing a sin under their faith.” According to news reports, distaff prosecutors wore military uniforms with knee-length skirts.

“Is the bin Attash in your book the same guy whose attorney feels she must cover her entire body?” I asked Rodriguez. Yes, he answered. “These people are pretty hypocritical. One thing is their religious beliefs; the other thing is what they do.”

It’s clear from Saturday’s antics that the military tribunal, which is not expected to begin until May 2013, will be a circus. Defense attorneys don’t have much of a claim to the clients’ innocence. In 2007, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed issued a statement in which he proclaimed that he was the mastermind of 9/11, “from A to Z.” In 2008, KSM and his co-defendants told a military court that they were guilty and wanted to be martyred.

When President Barack Obama was elected, he halted military legal proceedings in favor of a civilian trial in New York. Fearing a possible terrorist attack, Congress objected. Under new rules, the military tribunal is back.

KSM and his merry band refused to cooperate Saturday, one of their lawyers explained, as a demonstration of “peaceful resistance to an unjust system.” If these guys are peaceful now, know this: It’s because they are in custody.

The defense, opined University of California, Berkeley professor and former George W. Bush administration lawyer John Yoo, is “determined to turn this into some kind of ideological statement and not really a trial of guilt and innocence.”

Though Bormann may try to shame female prosecutors to take the veil, Rodriguez found that KSM preferred dealing with female CIA officers who wore work attire. At the end of one debriefing, Rodriguez writes, KSM called a female officer back and said, “There’s something else you should know.” KSM then described how “he had personally decapitated Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002.” KSM was not remorseful.

Despite the lawyerly histrionics, that is the KSM the military jurors are sure to see.

Email Debra J. Saunders at [email protected]

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