Dec. 3, 2003 -- A defense psychologist has concluded that Zacarias Moussaoui, a self-proclaimed member of al Qaeda, was too mentally unstable to be a part of the intricate Sept. 11 plot, ABCNEWS has learned.
Three months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced Moussaoui's alleged role in the terror plot.
"The indictment of Zacarias Moussaoui is an important step in securing justice for the victims of Sept 11," he said in a news conference on Dec. 11, 2001.
Even though Moussaoui was already in U.S. custody in the weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks, the government charged that he knew about the attacks and was part of the conspiracy.
But legal documents written by Moussaoui since his arrest indicate he may be too mentally ill to be capable of participating in such a complex plot, according to a defense psychologist who reviewed them.
"I could show these papers to first-year psychiatric residents if they knew nothing about the case, and they would tell you the likely diagnosis is paranoid schizophrenia," psychologist Xavier Amador told ABCNEWS in an exclusive interview. Amador, who is on the board of directors for the National Association of Mental Illness, was hired by Moussaoui's lawyers to give his opinion on the writings.
Moussaoui wrote the documents as motions he filed with the court while he was in custody and legally representing himself. Several independent psychiatrists contacted by ABCNEWS came to the same conclusion as Amador after reviewing the documents.
The U.S. District Court judge in the case, Leonie Brinkema, had initially ruled that Moussaoui was mentally competent to defend himself, but on Nov. 14 she reversed herself, saying his writings were so "contemptuous" and "disrespectful" that he could no longer do so.
In one document, Moussaoui wrote: "I have a masters in International Bombing Business from the University Bombing Limited. My mentor is the Chief Executor of the World Terror Company."
In one of the motions he filed with the court while he was representing himself, Moussaoui claimed the FBI bugged his fan in an effort to frame him: "Where is my fan? It must be forensically examined before they kill me."
"I can't imagine anyone wanting to hire this man to flip burgers, much less try to do the kind of things al Qaeda is trying to do," said Amador.
Not Al Qaeda Material
Former senior FBI Agent Jack Cloonan, who monitored al Qaeda for the U.S. government, agreed Moussaoui's behavior would have made al Qaeda's leadership nervous.
"His writing and his declarations don't rise to the standard that al Qaeda would use for a very sensitive operation," said Cloonan, who is now an ABCNEWS consultant. "He is just too explosive."
Moussaoui is accused of conspiring with the Sept. 11 hijackers. The government has said it will seek the death penalty. The case has been stalled by the legal tug of war between the government's push to safeguard national security and the defendant's right to speak with witnesses he claims might help his case.
The government will have no problem linking Moussaoui to al Qaeda: Moussaoui admits he is a member and advocates the destruction of America. But he denies any direct involvement in the Sept. 11 conspiracy and contends that suspected 9/11 organizer Ramzi Binalshibh and other al Qaeda captives can back up his assertion that he was not involved.
Binalshibh has told investigators Moussaoui was not included in the Sept. 11 plot because he was considered too unreliable.
The government may have trouble proving Moussaoui's connection to the Sept. 11 plot, so why continue to press the case?
"He represents, in their judgment, a danger to U.S. national security and interest," said Cloonan.