WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced that the cases involving Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other Guantanamo Bay detainees accused of conspiring to commit the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks have been referred to the Defense Department to proceed in military commissions and that the federal indictment against these defendants that was returned under seal by a grand jury in the Southern District of New York on Dec. 14, 2009 has been unsealed and dismissed.
“As the indictment unsealed today reveals, we were prepared to bring a powerful case against the 9/11 defendants in federal court, and had this case proceeded as planned, I’m confident our justice system would have performed with the same distinction that has been its hallmark for more than two hundred years,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Unfortunately, Members of Congress have intervened and imposed restrictions blocking the administration from bringing any Guantanamo detainees to trial in the United States. While we will continue to seek to repeal those restrictions, we cannot allow a trial to be further delayed for the victims of the 9/11 attacks or their families. I have full faith and confidence in the reformed military commission system to appropriately handle this case as it proceeds.”
The Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, determined that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid Bin Attash, Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Al-Hawsawi are eligible for military commission charges and referred their cases to the Defense Department.
Earlier today, federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York and the Eastern District of Virginia unsealed and moved to dismiss the indictment returned in federal court in Manhattan that charged these defendants for their roles in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that damaged or destroyed four commercial aircraft in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania; the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and surrounding property in New York; and the Pentagon in Virginia, resulting in the deaths of 2,976 persons. A federal judge today granted the motion to dismiss the indictment.
The 10-count, 80-page indictment charged each of the defendants with conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries; acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries; conspiracy to commit violent acts and destroy aircraft; violence on and destruction of aircraft; conspiracy to commit aircraft piracy; aircraft piracy; murder of U.S. officers and employees; destruction of property by means of fire and explosives; and conspiracy to kill Americans.
The federal indictment specifically alleged that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was closely associated with Usama Bin Laden and, who in 1999 proposed to Bin Laden a terror plot that would use airplanes as missiles to crash into buildings, served as the operational leader of the Sept. 11, 2001 plot. Walid Bin Attash participated in the plot, by among other things collecting information on matters related to airport and airplane security measures, according to the indictment.
Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh, according to the indictment, tried to become one of the pilot hijackers, but repeatedly failed to obtain a visa for entry into the United States and instead managed the plot by among other things sending money to hijackers in the United States from abroad. Ali Abdul Aziz Ali allegedly facilitated the plot by among other things sending money to hijackers in the United States from abroad. Mustafa Al-Hawsawi allegedly facilitated the plot by among other things helping hijackers travel to the United States and facilitating their efforts upon arrival.
Attorney General Holder thanked federal prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Southern District of New York and the Eastern District of Virginia, as well as the hundreds of federal agents and analysts from across the government who spent years investigating and working to bring federal charges against these defendants.
The military commission system was substantially reformed by the Military Commissions Act of 2009, which the administration worked with Congress to enact, as well as the 2010 revised Manual for Military Commissions.