WASHINGTON — The five men believed to be behind the deadliest terror attack in U.S. history were officially charged Wednesday under military law with crimes that carry a maximum sentence of death.
The five men will be officially notified of the charges at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, where they have been locked up — and critics say often tortured — for the past decade.
The names of the suspects will surprise no one: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid bin Atash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed al Hansawi. They are each charged with terrorism, hijacking, conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war and attacking civilians, among other charges stemming from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The case against the five — including alleged 9/11 mastermind Mohammed — was halted by President Barack Obama, who wanted them tried in civilian court. After Congress rejected the idea, the administration moved the case back to Guantanamo.
In a press release, the Pentagon said that each of the charged has been provided with counsel that specializes in defending death penalty cases.
Critics weren't impressed by the process. American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said using military law and military courts in these cases is a mistake.
The Obama administration is making a terrible mistake by prosecuting the most important terrorism trials of our time in a second-tier system of justice, Romero said in a statement.
Whatever verdict comes out of the Guantánamo military commissions will be tainted by an unfair process and the politics that wrongly pulled these cases from federal courts, which have safely and successfully handled hundreds of terrorism trials.
The Defense Department said the five will be arraigned in Guantanamo within 30 days of receiving the charges, which officials said should be complete by Thursday at the latest.