18 years have passed since September 11th and for the families and friends of the nearly 3,000 people killed that day, seeing the mind of the terrorist plot brought to justice was a frustratingly elusive commodity.
But this anniversary of the worst attack on American soil brings with it the promise that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect admitted to the September 11 attacks, is finally scheduled for trial before a military tribunal – which could condemn he died and several al Qaeda companions.
Mohammed, or KSM as he is better known, was the operational planner of the leader of al Qaeda Osama bin Laden and he came up with the idea of using planes hijacked as missiles against America, the New York Post relationships.
Finally, he will face a trial for 2976 cases of murder and related charges before a military court in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, 11 January 2021.
Although nearly 20 years will have passed since the coordinated crash of passenger planes in the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, with a fourth forced to descend into a Pennsylvania camp after the passengers attempted to take the interior by assault and snatch control from its hijackers, the prosecution should not be hindered, said a well-known terrorist lawyer.
"I think they rely on what I believe to be vast confessions and other evidence that can be seen in terrorist cases: text messages, emails and organizations that take credit," said lawyer Steve Zissou.
Jurisprudence professor Victor Hansen, retired lieutenant colonel in the attorney general Corps of the US Army judge, said he expected prosecutors to "focus on all the overwhelming facts they can establish to connect these five suspects September 11 ".
"I think the prosecution will try to relive the events of September 11 in the most detailed way possible and to remind the jury that it will be held in the judgment of the horrible event," said Hansen, who teaches in New England Boston Law School.
But the passage of time could also help KSM and the co-defendants Walid bin Attash, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Ammar al-Baluchi and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi if their eventual jury of seven military officers has to decide the question of the death penalty.
Debra Burlingame, whose brother, the pilot Charles "Chic" Burlingame III, was killed when Flight 77 of the American Airlines crashed into the Pentagon, said another brother was chosen by prosecutors to testify in a potential penalty phase.
But Bradley Burlingame died of pancreatic cancer in 2015 at age 63.
"This was an overwhelming loss for my family, who did not live to see our brother's killers brought to justice," Burlingame said by telephone Tuesday as he went to the Pentagon's Wednesday memorial service.
Although KSM somehow manages to miraculously mark an absolution, there is no way he can ever escape his cell in Guantanamo Bay, according to Zissou, who represented a former Gitmo prisoner in the deadly 1998 attacks against two American embassies in Africa.
Zissou stated that the Patriot Act, inspired by September 11, gives President Trump – or any successor – "extraordinary power in retaining people considered enemy fighters".
"No US president will ever let him go," Zissou said.
Following his capture in Pakistan in March 2003, KSM overthrew the bowels in a secret "black site" of the CIA abroad, where he was embarked 183 times and subjected to other "enhanced interrogation" techniques.
He admitted he committed more horrors, including the personal beheading of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl on video and the organization of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, another bombing in a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia, and Richard Reid's failed "shoe explosion" attempt to blow up a passenger plane on the Atlantic Ocean.
"I was responsible for the operation of September 11th, from A to Z," he said.
None of these tests can be used against him, however.
But prosecutors say that KSM and its co-defendants also gave legal confessions to the FBI after being transferred to the US military base in Guantanamo Bay.
Defense lawyers claim that the CIA and FBI teams have worked side by side and are challenging the admissibility of Gitmo's confessions in the preliminary hearings that should last until March 2020.
Three weeks of hearings before the trial judge, Air Force Colonel W. Shane Cohen, began Monday, when KSM obtained a new defense lawyer, Gary Sowards, who previously represented "Unabomber" Theodore Kaczynski, according to what reported by the New York Times.
Another lawyer who joined his team was the ACLU lawyer Denny LeBouef, who the Times said he had met with him since 2013 as director of the John Adams Project of the ACLU, which assists in defending Gitmo detainees accused of capital crimes.
The John Adams project was examined in 2009 following allegations that it hired researchers who took pictures of CIA officials who were shown to Gitmo inmates, according to the Washington Post.
Retired FDNY deputy head Jim Riches, who participated in three days of preliminary hearings in 2008, interrupted by a short-term plan to transfer the case to the federal court in Manhattan, said he doubted that the trial would start as expected.
"Those kids are playing a game over there," he said of the defendants, who saw from behind a glass partition.
"They laughed, got up, prayed when they wanted. Total lack of respect … I wanted to come in and hit them. "
Richard Miniter, author of the 2011 book "Mastermind: The Many Faces of the 9/11 Architect, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed", told an even more outrageous incident in which KSM "wrote the four flight numbers from September 11th , he folded it into a paper airplane and threw it to the spot where the family members were watching. "
"He was a giant FU for families," he said.
Miniter said he expects KSM – who called himself a "very intelligent and evil man" – to eventually dismiss his lawyers and represent himself so that he could turn his trial into an international show.
"He told the Arab press to consider the legal system of Guantanamo as a second jihad. This is fighting with different means, "said Miniter.
But Miniter said high-level military sources told him that it was unlikely that KSM would get the death penalty, noting that the military had not run anyone since 1961.
"If this were the ancient Rome, they would have dragged him to Yankee Stadium and would have stoned him to death with the rubble of the World Trade Center – but those days are gone," he said.
This article originally appeared on New York Post and has been reproduced with permission