The U.S. Department of Defense arranged for 9/11 victims’ families, first responders and others to view a live feed of the Sept. 11 trial at Fort Hamilton Army Base in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. That courtesy was extended to the 9/11 Memorial Museum staff, who are helping to preserve the history of 9/11 and its continued impact on the world in which we live.
October 17, 2012
He had intended to skip the pre-trial military hearing. But Khalid Sheik Mohammed changed his mind. Later that morning, the self-described mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, appeared in the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, courtroom, wearing a hunting-style camouflage vest with a white vest and turban. His shaggy beard was tinged with rust-colored henna.
Seeing him was both shocking and electrifying to me as I watched from a closed-circuit feed in a chilly theater at Fort Hamilton Army Base in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. Attendance was sparse this day. A handful of 9/11 relatives watched the televised proceedings with fierce concentration.
During the breaks, I spoke with two family members who told me they had been to the naval base in Guantanamo. They said despite wanting to see the five men charged in the 9/11 plot convicted for their capital crimes, they felt the accused were receiving exceptionally fair treatment.
Watching the 47-year-old Mohammed, it seemed unquestionable that he chose to wear the camouflage vest to show he was a prisoner of war and an unbroken mujahedeen fighter. Prosecutors had feared the camouflage vest might disrupt the proceedings. It did not. The courtroom atmosphere remained focused and professional.
In Arabic, Mohammed delivered a monologue through a translator accusing the U.S. government of using methods such as torture to justify protecting national security. The judge, Army Col. James Pohl, allowed Mohammed’s statements once, but ordered he would not be allowed to voice such personal opinions.
“No matter how heartfelt, I am not going to entertain personal comments on any accused about the way things are going,” Pohl said in the Wall Street Journal report.
Mohammed’s words broke the calm of the day, jolting observers like myself. I was reminded of the profound contempt Mohammed held for the United States, and the choice he denied to nearly 3,000 innocent people to lead their lives and pursue their dreams.
By Jan Ramirez, Chief Curator