* MARCH 10, 2009, 5:07 P.M. ET
Accused 9/11 Suspects Declare Themselves ‘Terrorists to the Bone’
By JESS BRAVIN
WASHINGTON — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others accused in the Sept. 11, 2001, conspiracy called U.S. allegations "badges of honor" and declared themselves "terrorists to the bone" in a written statement slated for public release Tuesday.
A courtroom drawing reviewed by the military shows Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, top, and co-defendants Walid Bin Attash, second from top, and Ramzi Bin al Shibh, left, attending a pre-trial session in Guantanamo Bay in December.
The six-page statement, dated March 1, was filed with a military judge at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in response to nine charges filed by military prosecutors last year. Titled "The Islamic Response to the Government’s Nine Accusations," the statement mocks American authorities for failing to foil the Sept. 11 plot and casts the U.S. as a terrorist aggressor whose own actions provoked the suicide hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 people.
The statement calls the conspiracy charge "laughable."
"Were you expecting us to inform you about our secret attack plans?" it says. "Blame yourselves and your failed intelligence apparatus and hold them accountable, not us."
"Also, as the prophet has stated: ‘War is to deceive,’" it states, in one of several passages that assert religious sanction for al Qaeda attacks.
Responding to charges of attacking civilians, the statement cites as grievances not only the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which occurred after the Sept. 11 attacks, but also U.S. policy going back to World War II. "Did you forget about your nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki," the statement reads.
In answer to the war crimes charge, the men refer to their own imprisonment in secret Central Intelligence Agency prisons, where U.S. officials acknowledge Mr. Mohammed and two other prisoners were subjected to waterboarding, or simulated drowning. Attorney General Eric Holder has described waterboarding as torture.
"We are the best example of such violations and your ‘Black Sites’ for torturing prisoners," the statement reads, adding the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay as further examples of prisoner abuse by the U.S.
The men respond to the allegation of providing material support for terrorism by condemning Washington’s aid to both Israel and Arab and Muslim governments.
Not only is the U.S. the principal ally of "the terrorist state of Israel," it also "supports and finances the terrorist regimes that govern the countries of the Arab world, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan," the statement says. (Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim country, but most Pakistanis are not ethnically Arab.)
The statement ends by praising the 19 suicide-hijackers and predicting America’s demise. "You will be greatly defeated in Afghanistan and Iraq," it says, later adding: "Your fall will be just as the fall of the towers on the blessed 9/11 day."
The men call themselves "the 9/11 Shura Council." In addition to Mr. Mohammed, those charged include Ramzi Binalshibh, Walid bin Attash, Mustafa al-Hawsawi and Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, also known as Amar al-Baluchi.
The Bush administration filed charges against the men last year before a military commission in Guantanamo Bay. The Bush administration asserted that it would be difficult to successfully prosecute the men in federal court in part because that might force the U.S. government to disclose and defend the prisoners’ treatment in CIA custody.
President Barack Obama suspended those proceedings in January pending a review of the Guantanamo detention and trial apparatus. Obama administration officials say their preference is to try alleged terrorists in federal court. The statement, along with the defendants’ other public remarks claiming responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks, suggests that conviction in federal court may not pose as many hurdles as some officials once feared.
A military attorney appointed to represent one of the defendants questioned whether his client agreed to the statement.
"There is no evidence that Mr. al Hawsawi knew about, read or signed this document ," Maj. Jon Jackson said in an email. "It is a typed message in English with no signature. I object to this highly irregular document release." Maj. Jackson said he was unaware of the statement until the military judge ordered copies sent to attorneys Monday.
Write to Jess Bravin at email@example.com