President Joe Biden has rejected several conditions proposed by the defense lawyers representing the accused in the September 11, 2001 attacks. These conditions encompassed a presidential guarantee to safeguard the five individuals from solitary confinement and furnish them with care for the trauma induced by their torture while in CIA custody. This decision was confirmed by an official from the White House National Security Council on Wednesday.
Consequently, the process of crafting a plea agreement will have to proceed without these presidential assurances. The discussions at present revolve around the possibility of the five Guantanamo detainees pleading guilty, which would entail life imprisonment instead of facing the death penalty. This negotiation between the defense and prosecution has been in progress for roughly one and a half years.
President Biden sided with the suggestion of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to reject the proposed conditions as a basis for plea discussions, stemming from hesitations to accede to demands from individuals implicated in orchestrating the most lethal attack on American soil since the Pearl Harbor incident. Initially, the White House had maintained a hands-off approach, with the president asserting that the senior military official presiding over the U.S. military processes at Guantanamo Bay should take the lead in decision-making.
Central to the case is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged to have been the orchestrator of the attacks that resulted in almost 3,000 fatalities. The pretrial proceedings for these detainees have been under way at the U.S. military commission in Guantanamo Bay for more than ten years, yet a trial date remains unestablished. Factors such as the detainees’ experience of torture post-capture and the logistical hurdles of conducting the hearings outside of the U.S. have been contributing factors to the prolonged process.
This recent revelation of President Biden’s stance came following briefings by U.S. military officials to a broader segment of the 9/11 victims’ families regarding the evolving plea discussions. This development was met with resistance from several survivors who opposed a settlement that would exempt the accused from a trial and potential death sentence. Brett Eagleson, who lost his father in the attacks, endorsed the administration’s decision, articulating a hope for justice and holding all involved parties accountable.