18 April 2024

Man Accused of Main 9/11 Plot Was Denied a Lawyer, Then Confessed

Prosecutors known as a retired F.B.I. agent this week to testify that the person who’s accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11 assaults freely mentioned the lethal hijacking plot throughout 4 days of questioning in January 2007.

In doing so, the previous agent, Frank Pellegrino revealed that on the outset of the interrogation, the prisoner requested when he would see a lawyer.

Mr. Pellegrino mentioned he disregarded the request and went on to acquire a confession throughout 12 to 13 hours of questioning at Guantánamo Bay.

The prisoner, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, wouldn’t get to seek the advice of a lawyer for an additional 15 months. By then, prosecutors had issued capital costs in opposition to him, 5 years after his seize in Pakistan and after years within the C.I.A.’s clandestine jail community, the black websites, the place he was tortured.

The disclosure introduced the courtroom with one other problem to think about because it decides a central query within the long-running Sept. 11 case. After years of isolation that included being waterboarded 183 occasions and different torture, did Mr. Mohammed voluntarily confess at Guantánamo Bay, and might what he mentioned be used at his eventual death-penalty trial?

Prosecutors argue that Mr. Mohammed voluntarily mentioned his function because the mastermind of the assault by 19 males who hijacked the 4 planes that crashed, killing virtually 3,000 individuals on Sept. 11, 2001. Protection legal professionals contend that he was educated to admit in a program of C.I.A. torture.

It was the Bush administration’s coverage to disclaim former C.I.A. prisoners entry to legal professionals till they have been charged in army commissions, the hybrid military-civilian courtroom system the administration set as much as skirt sure constitutional questions.

To construct their instances, army prosecutors had groups of federal brokers query Mr. Mohammed and different suspects inside months of their switch from C.I.A. prisons in 2006. The thought was to get recent confessions from the prisoners that have been uncontaminated by the soiled work of the C.I.A. In a setback to the idea, an Military choose just lately threw out a type of confessions in one other case as derived from torture.

Mr. Pellegrino mentioned he and his two companions within the interrogation handled Mr. Mohammed respectfully and described their interactions as cordial and nonconfrontational.

The F.B.I. agent mentioned he broke the ice by saying he envied the laptop computer Mr. Mohammed had been utilizing earlier than he was captured in Pakistan in March 2003.

“Frank, if you happen to be a part of Al Qaeda, I can get you a great laptop,” Mr. Mohammed replied, Mr. Pellegrino testified.

Prosecutors think about Mr. Pellegrino’s account of the interrogation an important proof in opposition to Mr. Mohammed.

Mr. Pellegrino devoted a decade of his 33-year profession in counterterrorism to making an attempt to trace down Mr. Mohammed after the 1993 World Commerce Middle bombing. By the point the 2 males met in an interrogation room at Guantánamo, Mr. Pellegrino had already constructed a distinct case in opposition to him for a thwarted plot to hijack industrial plane in Southeast Asia.

“I’ve been getting ready my complete life for a possible interview with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed,” he mentioned.

Mr. Pellegrino mentioned he instructed Mr. Mohammed that he was not serious about what the prisoner had instructed the C.I.A. throughout his detention from 2003 to 2006, and that he wished to listen to his story independently.

“I’m not agreeing with what was finished,” Mr. Pellegrino testified.

However he mentioned Mr. Mohammed was accountable for the size and content material of their interview, and was granted a prayer break every day and water to drink. “Once we went in to talk to him, we have been very comfy that he was talking to us voluntarily, given each alternative to stroll away,” he mentioned.

The prisoner was shackled to a bolt on the interrogation room ground by one or each ankles, and appeared unhurt, Mr. Pellegrino mentioned.

On questioning by Gary D. Sowards, Mr. Mohammed’s lawyer, Mr. Pellegrino mentioned he was unaware on the time that Mr. Mohammed had beforehand been waterboarded and subjected to different violent interrogation methods by the C.I.A. Even so, he testified Wednesday, he stood by his perception that Mr. Mohammed spoke to him voluntarily.

Notes of the interrogation confirmed that Mr. Mohammed described himself as “a slave” within the first hour of his F.B.I. interrogation in 2007.

In courtroom, Mr. Pellegrino appeared stunned. However he acknowledged that it will need to have been mentioned after he examined handwritten notes taken by a former F.B.I. analyst who took half within the interrogation.

He did recall that Mr. Mohammed defined the three targets of the Sept. 11 assaults: the Pentagon as a army image, the World Commerce Middle as an financial image and both the White Home or the Capitol as a political image. Passengers aboard Flight 93 fought that group of hijackers, forcing it to crash in a subject in Shanksville, Pa.

Two army prosecutors monitored the interrogation, which was not recorded or transcribed, based on testimony.

Mr. Pellegrino mentioned that, in response to a query from the prisoner, he additionally instructed Mr. Mohammed that there have been no Supreme Court docket choices regarding Guantánamo Bay that concerned his proper to a lawyer.

In June 2004, the Supreme Court docket granted army prisoners at Guantánamo Bay entry to legal professionals to problem their detention by habeas corpus petitions in federal courtroom.

In anticipation of that call, the Bush administration moved prisoners who had been held by the C.I.A. at Guantánamo to different secret C.I.A. prisons. By the point they have been returned in September 2006, U.S. intelligence and authorized authorities have been designing a framework to first receive “clear staff” confessions from C.I.A. prisoners who President Bush wished tried, then afterward give them legal professionals.

James G. Connell III, the lawyer for Mr. Mohammed’s nephew, Ammar al-Baluchi, described Mr. Pellegrino’s account as a double violation of a prisoner’s proper to a Miranda warning, the precise in opposition to self-incrimination and proper to a lawyer that each U.S. prison suspect is constitutionally entitled to listen to.

“A technical Miranda violation is a failure to advise,” he mentioned. “It’s one other layer when a suspect asks for an lawyer and so they don’t honor it.”

The choose permitted Mr. Pellegrino to testify by video feed from a courtroom annex in Crystal Metropolis, Va., with a larger-than-life picture of him beamed to a display above the witness stand.