Trial of 9/11 Mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Resumes Today: What You Need to Know

The trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who allegedly proposed the idea of the 9/11 plane hijackings to Osama bin Laden in 1996, resumes today.

He and four alleged co-conspirators will face charges before a United States military tribunal at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and, if found guilty, could be executed.

For their alleged role in training the 9/11 hijackers who crashed planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and another that went down in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the five face charges of conspiracy and murder in violation of the law of war and terrorism. The charges stem from allegations that they directed or trained the hijackers or helped provide them money or travel assistance, according to court documents.

Mohammed, alleged trainer Walid bin Attash, middleman Ramzi bin al-Shibh, money transferrer Ammar al-Baluchi and travel arranger Mustafa al Hawsawi were captured in 2002 and 2003. In 2006, they were transferred to Guantánamo, where they were arraigned in 2012. Despite the reading being presented over nine years ago, the case has not moved past the pretrial phase, facing a number of delays over the years.

U.S. Officials Believe Mohammed
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a suspected Al-Qaeda terrorist, is shown in this photo released by the FBI on October 10, 2001, in Washington, D.C. Mohammed, who was arrested at a house in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, faces trial for his alleged 9/11 actions and, if found guilty, could be executed. Photo Courtesy of FBI/Getty Images

Upon their capture, the men were held by the CIA and shuttled between a network of prisons as the agency looked to extract information it hoped could be used to take down Al-Qaeda and bin Laden, the New York Times reported.

While in Guantánamo, the men faced interrogative techniques that some of their attorneys and human rights organizations have said was torture, with Mohammed claiming to have been waterboarded 183 times, according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report. Because of the controversy surrounding how the confessions were obtained, the FBI looked to get untainted confessions to avoid the statements being thrown out. The men were formally charges in June of 2008.

By that time, former President Barack Obama was close to taking office, having come off a campaign during which he promised to close Guantánamo. That led to a temporary suspension of the trial.

Later, former Attorney General Eric Holder decided that the trial should be in New York but was met with strong opposition. Congress passed legislation forbidding federal trials for Guantánamo prisoners, leading to new charges presented during their arraignment on May 5, 2012. There are 2,976 people named as victims in the charges.

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The main gate at the prison in Guantanamo at the U.S. Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba. The five men accused of helping to organize the 9/11 hijacking have been held there since 2006. SYLVIE LANTEAUME/AFP via Getty Images

Since then, the trial has been held up as the group's defense lawyers requested new information from the government. The proceedings become more complex as the attorneys deliberated about the potential death penalty sentencing and the logistics of trying the men as a group.

The trial was further delayed as information had to be sifted through to determine what would and would not be considered confidential. The former military judge overseeing the trial announced his retirement in mid-2020, and the case came to a temporary halt as it felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With travel in the case set to resume, the trial, which will be presided over by Colonel Matthew McCall, will be attended by a number of individuals whose family members were killed during the attacks. Fifty-three reporters are set to join the families, with the trail broadcast through closed-circuit TV at Fort Meade Army base in Maryland, ABC reported. The jury and attorneys all are U.S. citizens and affiliated with the military.

After the pretrial phase from September 7 possibly through September 17, there will be pretrial continuation scheduled for November 1 to 19.

Detainees Held at Guatnamo Bay
In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Navy, U.S. Military Police guard Taliban and Al-Qaeda detainees in orange jumpsuits in a holding area at Camp X-Ray at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during in-processing to the temporary detention facility. Photo by Petty Officer 1st class Shane T. McCoy/U.S. Navy via Getty Images/Shane T. McCoy