Commentary: 9-11 plotter shouldn't control trial

This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.

Once again, the legitimacy of the Guantanamo military commissions has been called into question, this time by the accused 9-11 plotters and their self-proclaimed mastermind, Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Their offer to plead guilty must be seen in the context of their loathing for the United States as a display of contempt for the proceedings at Guantanamo and, by extension, the American government and its people.

Unfortunately, the process at Guantanamo has made it all too easy for them because it lacks the usual protections for defendants' rights that are a hallmark of the traditional U.S. system of justice.

Some of the defendants – notably Mohammed, who was subjected to waterboarding – have been tortured. The rules of conventional trials have been softened to make it easier for the prosecution to offer hearsay and otherwise introduce evidence a U.S. court would never allow. This undermines the entire process and leaves any punishment issued by the commission – especially a death penalty – open to question.

The offers to plead guilty by Mohammed and the other accused terrorists are little more than an effort to manipulate the trial. The plotters made their intentions clear when they withdrew the guilty pleas until the commission can decide whether it can pass a death sentence if the defendant pleads guilty instead of going through a trial. If the answer is Yes, Mohammed and the others will gladly go forward because it will fulfill their wish for "martyrdom" and thus be considered a propaganda victory for their warped sense of justice.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.