9/11 families rip defense, Obama administration over KSM case delays

Joseph Straw, NY Daily News

Victims’ relatives who attended this week’s pretrial arguments in the 9/11 conspiracy case slammed the defense and the Obama Administration Thursday for delays that continue nearly two years after charges were read.

While chief prosecutor and Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins has asked the Guantanamo Bay court to begin jury selection in January, defense lawyer James Connell III predicted the case would not go to trial before 2017.

Victims' relatives attended 9/11 conspiracy case pretrial arguments this week at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba Bill Gorman/AP

Victims’ relatives attended 9/11 conspiracy case pretrial arguments this week at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba Bill Gorman/AP

Four days docketed this week for arguments on issues like the mental competence of codefendant Ramzi Binalshibh instead focused on allegations that an FBI leak probe targeted a defense aide as a possible informant.

The defense claimed the incident poses a potential conflict of interest, sows distrust in their clients and must be investigated by the court.

Prosecutors have appointed a special counsel to do so, while additional independent lawyers would brief the defendants on findings so they can waive any claims of conflict.
The relatives, however, were unanimous in suspicion that the FBI incident was a deliberate gambit by the Obama Administration to derail the trial so it can be moved to a stateside federal court, a bid the Justice Department abandoned in 2009.

“Here you have pretrial hearings for the most high profile case probably in history, and nobody has the common sense to think the things that happened might impact those proceedings?” said Gloria Snekszer, whose sister Vicki Linn Yancey was killed on American Airlines Flight 77 when it hit the Pentagon.

“It defies logic to think that one would do this at this timing just before we were to come down here,” Snekszer said, adding, “I can’t believe people in such organizations did not know better.”

Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon, however, called their theory “flat out false.”
Martins, who would not comment on the FBI issue, said that prosecutors “certainly understand families of those killed on 9/11 – their frustration and their anxiety, and disappointment. Our hearts go out to them. But all of us who are involved in this case understood coming in that this is a marathon…justice has its own timeline.”

Avowed plot mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, nephew Ammar al Baluchi, Walid bin Attash, Mustafa al Hawsawi and Binalshibh face death for their alleged role in killing 2,976 on 9/11.

Hearings in Cuba and Thursday’s public remarks were transmitted via closed-circuit television to Fort Meade, Md. for viewing by the press and the public.

Family members ripped the defense teams after meeting between the two Wednesday that spurred Connell Thursday to “acknowledge the pain and loss of victims of 9/11 and of acts of terrorism around the world.”

“Nothing that we do here can ever reflect the enormity of the pain and the loss that people have suffered,” Connell said, adding, “There are times when what we do hurts you, and we’re sorry for that.”

The defense lawyers, however, acted different behind closed doors, Snekszer said.

“I found them to be arrogant, cocky, condescending and I didn’t hear any of that sympathy for our loss,” she said, adding that “they were not at all the sympathetic people that talked to you this morning.”

Snekszer described the defense’s strategy as “delay, delay, delay.”

Don Arias, whose brother Adam died at the World Trade Center, took a sarcastic shot at the defense lawyers’ description of their work.

“I applaud them for the enthusiasm in which they embrace building that rapport with the self-confessed mastermind of 9/11 and the murderers of almost 3,000 people including my brother, Adam,” said Arias, a retired Air Force officer and Florida radio host.

The trial cannot begin until each side finishes collecting evidence and has shared it with the other. The prosecution claims the process is complete, but the defense seeks added information about the defendants’ time and treatment in CIA custody after the attack.

According to a Miami Herald report, Judge James Pohl has ruled secretly in a parallel case that the CIA must turn over such evidence to the defense. As precedent, the ruling would force a showdown between the court and the government in the 9/11 case that could take months or more to play out.

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