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Republicans, one Democrat call on Biden to reject plea deal that would spare 9/11 terrorist the death penalty

 August 26, 2023

A cohort of 34 Republican lawmakers, along with Democrat Rep. Pat Ryan (NY-18), penned a letter to the Biden administration, imploring the president not to consider a plea bargain that would allow alleged 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his associates to evade the death penalty, as the Daily Mail reported.

The letter, spearheaded by GOP Rep. Mike Lawler (NY-17), who represents New York City suburbs, stresses that offering such a deal would deeply disrespect the memories of the 2,977 innocent lives lost on that tragic day.

The lawmakers also pushed for a swift conclusion to the long-pending trials of the suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, which have been mired in delays for over two decades.

Pentagon Addresses 9/11 Families

Earlier this month, the Pentagon reached out to the bereaved families of 9/11 victims, shedding light on the potential plea deals in consideration for Mohammed and four others.

This approach would require them to own up to their crimes and plead guilty, albeit without the threat of the death penalty. A life sentence resulting from such a plea might also pose a challenge to President Biden's aspirations to close down the Guantanamo facility.

Challenges at Guantanamo Bay

Guantanamo Bay's operations have been increasingly shrouded in secrecy over the past 20 years, even though the facility levies a hefty financial toll on taxpayers. Currently, it houses 38 detainees, ten of whom have been charged but are still awaiting trial.

Among them, Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi were all anticipated to face capital punishment upon conviction.

Their rap sheets are extensive, spanning charges from terrorism, hijacking, and conspiracy to severe war crimes.

These al-Qaeda operatives are indicted for the hijacking of four planes and executing coordinated assaults throughout the U.S., which led to nearly 3,000 deaths.

Additionally, numerous others have succumbed in the years following due to inhaling toxic substances from the debris of the attacks.

Yet, the case has been ensnared in pre-trial procedure, predominantly owing to the controversial methods employed by the CIA to extract information and the complications arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. It's been almost ten years since their arraignments, and a trial commencement date remains elusive.

Ramifications of a Plea Deal

A critical provision by Congress has already ruled out any possibility of transferring the 9/11 conspirators to the U.S. mainland.

These accused terrorists have vocalized their preference to remain at Guantanamo, favoring its conditions over the strict solitary confinement experienced in Supermax prisons on U.S. soil.

However, offering a plea deal could evoke intense emotions, especially among the victims' families, many of whom ardently advocate for capital punishment. Additional concerns loom over the sentencing of other accused participants who might not have played as pivotal a role as the five main suspects.

On the other hand, defense attorneys emphasize the diminished moral ground held by the U.S. in delivering the death penalty due to reported torture.

It's documented that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was subjected to waterboarding 183 times, and numerous other detainees faced harsh treatment in undisclosed CIA locations.

Financially, Guantanamo's existence has drained over $6 billion from U.S. taxpayers since its inception. Each detainee's upkeep costs between $9.5 and $13 million annually – a stark contrast to the $78,000 per inmate at the high-security prison in Florence, Colorado.