Former Maryland resident Majid Khan pleaded guilty today to being a key operative and facilitator for 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad's would-be second wave of attacks against the United States.
Khan, who attended a military commission hearing at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, agreed to plead guilty and testify at the trials of other Guantanamo detainees in exchange for a reduced sentence, according to a pre-trial agreement.
He is expected to serve 19 to 25 years in prison.
Khan pleaded guilty to all the charges against him, including conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, attempted murder in violation of the law of war, providing material support for terrorism, and spying. Khan's attorney, J. Wells Dixon, entered the plea.
Asked by military judge James Pohl if the plea was his wish, Khan said, "Yes sir."
The admitted al Qaeda operative pleaded guilty for working with Mohammed in helping to facilitate the August 2003 bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, which killed 11 people and left 150 injured. Khan also pleaded guilty for his attempt to assassinate former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and for plotting to poison water reservoirs and exploding gasoline storage tanks at U.S. gas stations.
"KSM [Mohammed] wanted the accused [Khan] to become a new model for 'sleeper' agents in the United States because the accused was married, spoke fluent English had a valid U.S. travel document, could maintain a low profile, and easily assimilate without detection. ... [Khan] agreed … to serve as a sleeper agent for KSM, and was committed to the idea," the stipulation of fact signed by Khan noted.
After the hearing, Khan's military counsel, Lt. Col. Jon Jackson said, Khan was remorseful. "He wanted a second chance of life. … "He wishes he had never been involved with al Qaeda. Ever," Jackson said.
Under the pre-trial agreement that was reviewed by Army Col. Pohl, Khan's sentence is expected to begin in four years after he testifies against other terrorism detainees. Khan will be sentenced by a military panel of officers once the government believes he has fully cooperated with his plea agreement.
Before the plea was entered Khan, said he was satisfied with his defense lawyers but he wished in the future to have access to the Pakistani embassy or a Pakistani government representative or a defense lawyer from Pakistan.
"For 9 years, I have been asking to speak with the Pakistani embassy," Khan said at the hearing.
Khan was represented Dixon and Katya Jestin of the Center for Constitutional Rights, along with Jackson.
Asked by Pohl if the guilty plea was in his best interest, Khan responded, "No doubt sir."
When Pohl reviewed the conspiracy charge against Khan, he seemed confused about the charge because the al Qaeda conspiracy charge referenced Osama Bin Laden. "I never met him," Khan said.
He also disputed that he took an oath to join al Qaeda. Although he was arrested in March 2003, Khan had delivered money to finance the August 2003 Marriott hotel bombing in Indonesia.
"I volunteered to do a lot of things," Khan said of his work for al Qaeda.
Pohl rejected a defense request to seal part of Khan's plea agreement over concerns about the safety of his family living in the United States and his wife and daughter who are living in Pakistan.
Khan, detained in 2003, is the first of the 14 former high-value detainees held in the CIA's secret prisons to agree to a plea deal at a Military Commission.