It’s a disgrace that 19 years after the tragedy of 9/11, prosecution is only just beginning.
The trial date for the terrorists involved in plotting the 9/11 attacks has been set 10 years too late. This week, as the U.S. marks the eighteenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, memory of the tragic day is still fresh in the minds of most Americans.
As a New Yorker, Sept. 11 has always held a special significance to me. There’s never been a time when I didn’t associate that date with solemnity and solidarity.
As a 1‑year old living in Queens during the attack, I was too young to comprehend the gravity of the situation unfolding a mere eight miles away in lower Manhattan.
My dad, like millions of others, was starting his work day in New York City that morning. When news of the attack was announced, he rushed home, unsure about the possibility of subsequent attacks and unable to contact loved ones due to the failing cellular towers. The subway system shut down, and highways and bridges closed to traffic. He walked home from Manhattan to Queens, over the 59th Street bridge with millions of other New Yorkers, with the smoke from the World Trade Center rising behind them.
Every New Yorker old enough to remember the day with clarity can give a detailed description of their experience in the weeks following the attacks. NYC and the lives of many would change forever.
It has been 19 years since the Twin Towers collapsed, yet the masterminds responsible for one of the darkest days in American history have yet to be tried.
“For the first time, a U.S. military court judge in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has set a trial date for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other four men charged with plotting the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001,” an August NPR article said. “Judge W. Shane Cohen, an Air Force colonel who took over the case in June, said the trial should begin on Jan. 11, 2021, though a number of other deadlines would need to be met for the long-delayed trial to begin.”
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four others have been accused of planning the 9/11 attacks. The New York Times reports Walid bin Attash and Ramzi bin al-Shibh have also been charged for their role in carrying out the attacks. Ammar al-Baluchi, Mohammed’s nephew, and Mustafa al Hawsawi face the death penalty as well.
There are many reasons for such a lengthy delay.
The defense has been adamant in their efforts to discard key evidence which would aid in the conviction of the defendants.
According to an article from the New York Times, judges are debating the legitimacy of the alleged attackers’ confessions. Due to physical or mental injury from torture, defense lawyers could use MRI scans to argue for lesser sentences.
The New York Times stated former President Barack Obama kept the case on hold for due process protections, causing problems for our war courts today.
Another factor delaying the trial is the challenge of preparing Guantanamo for the amount of traffic that will ensue once proceedings begin.
The trial, which promises to be lengthy and complicated, requires a lot of preparation. The New York Times reported that the Navy base in Cuba cannot provide enough housing or food for those in the trial.
Due process is important. It is honorable and right that the United States extend this privilege even to those who have harmed its people.
Due process, however, is important for the defendants, but it is equally necessary for the victims. We cannot use it as an excuse for such lengthy delays.
The precedent of due process ensures that justice will be carried out whether that be dropping charges against an innocent defendant in some cases, or convicting the terrorists and giving the American people closure. It’s an opportunity to serve justice for both parties and give to each what is owed them.
True due process is impossible without a trial to convict the terrorists who caused so much destruction and pain to the American people.
This delay has turned from a healthy respect for the judicial proceedings of this country to a bureaucratic stalemate that neglects the duty owed to the victims of 9/11. Setting a trial date is just the beginning of a 19-year wait for justice.