It was the wise trial work of Seattle attorneys Harry Schneider and Joe McMillan that got Osama bin Laden's former driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, released from Guantanamo Bay a few weeks ago. Now, apparently in revolt against their own attorneys, alleged 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others accused of the Sept. 11 plot have chosen a political strategy: confess instead of going to trial, then challenge the U.S. to kill them.
"We don't want to waste our time with motions," Mohammed, captured in Pakistan in 2003, told a judge today. "All of you are paid by the U.S. government. I'm not trusting any American."
The NY Times says the pleas didn't come as a complete surprise. "There had been indications for months that the detainees were resisting working with the military lawyers assigned to represent them." But the confessions by the five, who face the death penalty, were also seen as a way they could air their political views without the government having the opportunity to detail their roles in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people. Reports the Times:
The American political calendar may also be a factor. Many people inside and outside the government expect President-elect Obama to close down the military commissions that have been used by the Bush administration, and to direct that many detainees now held in Guantánamo Bay be prosecuted instead in the civilian American legal system.
If that happens, today's proceedings will have been the defendants' last opportunity to challenge a seriously flawed military justice system - as opposed to the less-flawed federal system - and publicly seek martyrdom.