A group of House Republicans and a lone Democrat are urging President Biden not to engage in negotiations with terrorists. In a letter signed by thirty-four House Republicans and New York Democrat Pat Ryan, they called on the Biden administration to reject a potential plea deal that would spare alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-conspirators from facing the death penalty. The letter, led by GOP Rep. Mike Lawler of New York City suburbs, emphasized the significance of justice for the 2,977 innocent civilians and first responders who lost their lives on that tragic day.
The lawmakers also urged the Biden administration to prioritize concluding the sentencing of the alleged terrorists, who have been held at Guantanamo Bay and faced over two decades of delays in their trials. The Pentagon recently communicated to the families of 9/11 victims that plea deals are being explored for Mohammed and four other alleged co-conspirators. These deals would involve them accepting criminal responsibility and pleading guilty in exchange for avoiding the death penalty.
While such guilty pleas leading to life sentences could potentially bring closure to the case, it might complicate President Biden’s commitment to closing Guantanamo Bay, which has incurred substantial costs over its twenty-year operation. Currently, thirty-eight prisoners remain at Guantanamo, with ten charged but awaiting trial.
The individuals involved, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, are accused of hijacking planes and orchestrating coordinated attacks across the US that resulted in the deaths of thousands, along with additional fatalities from post-attack exposure to toxic particles. The legal proceedings have been hindered by issues such as the use of torture by the CIA to extract evidence and delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
There is Congressional prohibition against bringing the 9/11 plotters onto US soil. The accused plotters have expressed a desire to remain at Guantanamo, where they can practice their religious rituals and eat in groups. They oppose being transferred to the supermax prison in Florence, Colo., known for its solitary confinement conditions.
While a plea deal could provoke outrage from certain victims’ families seeking capital punishment, questions also arise about the potential sentences for accomplices with less direct involvement. Defense lawyers have argued that the US government’s use of torture undermines its moral and legal authority to carry out executions. The costs of operating Guantanamo have reportedly exceeded $6 billion, with US taxpayers funding approximately $9.5 to $13 million per prisoner annually, in stark contrast to the $78,000 spent per inmate at the ‘super-max’ prison in Florence, Colo.Share on Facebook «||» Share on Twitter «||» Share on Reddit «||» Share on LinkedIn