9/11 'Mastermind' Delays Plea Offer

With victims' family members in attendance, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks asked to postpone an earlier offer to plead guilty to murder charges and voiced concern that he might not be sentenced to death if he and his co-defendants plead guilty.

"Are you saying if we plead guilty we will not be permitted under the law to be sentenced to death?" he asked Army Col. Steve Henley, the judge presiding over the pretrial hearing in the war-crimes case at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, also known as KSM, is facing charges of murdering 2,973 people. He has admitted to developing the plot to fly airplanes into buildings and allegedly insisted the planes hit buildings, even when Osama bin Laden purportedly said hijacking them and crashing them in the ground would be enough.

KSM, who said during his June arraignment that he wished to be "martyred," also expressed dismay that "two of his brothers" would not be able to join in entering the plea, as they have competency issues pending before the court.

He and four others are facing charges related to the attacks and could be sentenced to death if found guilty.

Earlier Monday, Henley read aloud a letter in which the five men said they "request an immediate hearing session to announce our confessions." In court, KSM added, "We want to enter our plea… we do not want to waste time."

Henley and the attorneys are now trying to determine whether the men can legally plead guilty and avoid trial.

The judge asked each man whether he would enter a plea and three said they agreed with the letter. KSM had told the court that he and his four alleged co-conspirators met the day after Barack Obama was elected president to discuss the motion.

Obama has vowed to close Guantanamo, but has not laid out plans addressing where the alleged terrorists will go or what kind of trials they will face.

Immediately after the hearing kicked off Monday morning, KSM questioned the court about the slow response to the written requests he'd filed, noting one had taken 50 days. He then dismissed his military counsel, which was meant to offer legal guidance as he is representing himself, on the grounds that counsel members had served in Iraq and had allegedly killed Muslims. He also stated in court that he doesn't trust the judge, President Bush or the CIA, which he says tortured him.

CIA director Michael Hayden acknowledged earlier this year that CIA agents or contractors waterboarded KSM. The controversial interrogation technique simulates drowning.

As for Monday's hearing, the head of the American Civil Liberties Union offered up some harsh criticism.

"It was a complete circus today," said ACLU executive director Anthony Romero. "The rules are unclear. The defendants didn't understand it. The judge himself is unclear about what rules to apply. It just shows that the military commissions are fundamentally flawed. They can't be fixed. It won't get better. They just need to be shut down."

KSM appeared much as he did at his arraignment in June, wearing a white robe and white head scarf and a long, flowing gray beard. The summer court appearance was the first time he had been seen in public since his 2003 capture.

A small group of victims' family members and their guests are at Guantanamo Bay to witness the trial. In the courtroom, they are shielded from the media by a glass wall, but have a full view of KSM and the others on trial.

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