Alleged Maryland Al Qaeda Operative for Second Wave 9/11 Attacks Pleads Guilty

Majid Khan pled guilty today at a military commission hearing.

ByJason Ryan
February 29, 2012, 1:28 AM

Feb. 29, 2012— -- 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.

Khan's plea agreement prohibits his discussing his CIA interrogation and capture. As part of his plea agreement that Khan reviewed with Judge Pohl, he acknowledged that he cannot sue the CIA after his release.

"He was tortured; he was tortured very badly," defense Dixon said after the hearing at a briefing with reporters at Guantanamo.

On two occasions during the hearing, a military censor briefly cut the audio from the hearing when Khan appeared to begin to discuss his detention with the CIA.

When the video feed resumed, Pohl told Khan, "Don't discuss any individual agencies."

During the hearing, Pohl reviewed with Khan that under U.S. laws he can serve his sentence but still be held indefinitely as an enemy combatant.

"I'm taking a leap of faith here, sir," Khan told Pohl.

"Any plea deal and testimony by Majid Khan must be seen in the context of his years of secret, incommunicado detention and torture at the hands of the CIA, and the prospect of trial by an unfair military commissions system," said ACLU senior attorney Zachary Katznelson, who was at Guantánamo to observe the proceedings. "Whether the plea deal permits or restricts Mr. Khan from revealing the details of torture and abuse he suffered in CIA custody is a test of the Obama administration's promise that the commissions will provide transparency."

Khan's family owned gas stations in the Baltimore area where he attended high school. He and his family moved to the United States from Pakistan in 1996 and he graduated from Owings Mills High School in 1999. Although Khan entered the U.S. illegally in 1996, his family was granted asylum July 14, 1998.

According to a federal lawsuit seeking access to Khan when he was in military custody, he applied for legal permanent resident status in 1999 but the application was never granted.

The stipulation of fact released after the hearing asserts that Khan became more radicalized after his mother died in early 2001. The document notes that Khan witnessed the 9/11 attacks from an office building in Tyson's Corner, Va., and that he watched the smoke rise from the Pentagon and became further interested in learning about jihad and the Taliban.

The document signed by Khan states that he traveled to Pakistan in the wake of 9/11 and expressed his desire to fight in Afghanistan: "Nearly immediately upon arriving in Pakistan, the accused offered to work for al Qaeda and was introduced to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed."

Khan's connections to the 9/11 mastermind are close, the charging document filed against Khan noted, "From about August 11, 2002 to about March 5, 2003 in or near Karachi, Pakistan, Khan worked directly for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ali Abdul al-Aziz Ali and other al Qaeda associates."

Khan's guilty plea may also prove critical to providing witness testimony against Hambali the captured leader of Jemaah Islamiyah a terrorist group with ties close to al Qaeda. Khan admitted that he brought $50,000 to Hambali and terrorists in Thailand and Indonesia to finance the August 2003 Marriot Jakarta bombing.

Shortly after Mohammed was arrested March 1, 2003, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Khan was picked up by authorities in Karachi, Pakistan, and transferred into the CIA's high-value detainee and interrogation program and held at a "black site." His detention remained shrouded for some time until clues from terrorism arrests in the United States revealed his capture in late 2003.

A flurry of federal terrorism investigations and terrorism cases in the United States and abroad monitored Khan and Mohammed's capture. Under CIA interrogation, Khan led the FBI and U.S. counterterrorism officials to individuals whom he associated with including Uzair Paracha and Aafia Siddiqui.

Paracha was held as a material witness before he was charged by the Justice Department in August 2003 for posing as Khan, trying to assist with Khan's immigration documents. Paracha was convicted at trial in 2005 and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Siddiqui was mentioned during an August 2004 FBI news conference on a terror alert by FBI Director Robert Mueller as "an al Qaeda operative and facilitator."

Siddiqui was arrested under unclear circumstances in 2008 in the Ghazni province in Afghanistan when she somehow managed to get her hands on the gun of a U.S. service member. She was sent to New York to face charges on attempting to kill U.S. soldiers but was never charged for terrorism offenses.

She was convicted in 2010, and is serving a prison sentence in Texas. She is scheduled for release in 2083, according to Bureau of Prison records.

Secret Department of Defense documents released by online publisher WikiLeaks, based on information from Khan, allege that Mohammed and Paracha's father, Saifullah, attempted to establish a United States P.O. Box for an export-import business that would be used to smuggle explosives into the United States.

Saifullah Paracha is also being detained at Guantanamo Bay but his case has not been referred for a commission hearing.

While only a handful of cases have been processed through the Military Commission, more than 400 individuals have been convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related offenses in U.S. federal courts since the September 11 attacks.

ABC News' Luis Martinez contributed to this report.

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