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Inside the Ring: Terrorists’ antics


A sketch by a courtroom artist depicts the five 9/11 co-defendants praying during their arraignment at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on May 5. Their disruptive tactics stretched out the proceedings to 13 hours. (Associated Press)

The Washington-based legal group Judicial Watch earlier this month sent an investigator to Guantanamo Bay Naval Air Station, Cuba, to watch the May 5 arraignment of Khalid Shaikh Mohammad (aka KSM) and four others accused of plotting and executing the Sept. 11, 2001, airline attacks.

Judicial Watch outlined the disruptive tactics of the five terrorism suspects, who stretched out the proceedings for 13 hours through a series of deliberate delaying actions.

The four others on trial in Cuba are Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi. All are charged with terrorism, hijacking aircraft, conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, and destroying property in violation of the law of war.

Judicial Watch stated in notes provided to Inside the Ring that the disruptive tactics included:

• Refusal to wear any of the listening devices provided for the purpose of simultaneously interpreting into Arabic everything said in open court.

• Refusal to answer the judge’s direct questions as to whether the listening devices were working, whether the attorneys provided by the U.S. government at no charge on the defendants’ behalf were acceptable to them, and whether they understood the charges against them.

• Smiling, giggling, gesturing, talking, passing notes and even sharing a magazine among the five accused. Additionally, reputed mastermind KSM - who sat at the front table on the defense’s side of the courtroom - used a bold marker to make signs that he hung from a computer screen and microphone at his station in view of his followers sitting directly behind him.

Linguists complained during the hearing that touching the microphone caused static that impaired their ability to hear and interpret the proceedings. They also complained that side conversations further prevented them from hearing and interpreting the proceedings.

• Abruptly rising to engage in a repetitive stand, bend, kneel pattern of prayer at times not related to any recognized worship obligations.

• Removing clothing while engaging in a verbal outburst to allege mistreatment in confinement. Bin Attash also claimed that former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was being detained at Guantanamo. Gadhafi was killed by Libyan rebels in October.

Another oddity: A defense attorney donned a black head covering and full-body gown known in the Middle East as an abaya.

Lawyer Cheryl Bormann, who has said she is not Muslim and was a Chicago public defender before the Cuba proceedings, urged the court to order that the female members of the prosecution team, including a Navy lieutenant who wore a service dress-blue uniform, be ordered to wear similar Muslim garb out of respect for the religious duties of her client, Bin Attash.

“The strangest incident, however,” according to Judicial Watch, “may have been a defendant’s parting greeting toward a transparent divider at the rear of the courtroom.”

“Beyond the transparent divider sat a handful of the 9/11 victims’ surviving family members who had been invited to observe the proceedings in person,” the notes stated.

“Eddie Bracken, whose sister was killed in the World Trade Center prong of the attack, said at a press conference held the following morning that Binalshibh mocked his sister’s death by smiling and giving Bracken a thumbs-up sign the night before. Although a thumbs-up gesture generally means approval or agreement in the United States, in the Middle East the sign is considered obscene and symbolizes an insult … .”

The five defendants attempted to plead guilty in October 2008, but those pleas were voided after the Obama administration sought to move the case to the Justice Department.

The defendants said through their attorneys that they are refusing to participate in the proceedings to protest the legitimacy of the military tribunal.

The presiding judge at the hearing was Army Judge Col. James Pohl, who granted the defense’s request to start the death-penalty trial no earlier than May 5, 2013.


The Center for Strategic and International Studies, which has taken a turn to the left under current President John Hamre, recently held an unusual series of meetings in China on cybersecurity.

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About the Author

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon ( He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

Mr. ...

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