The self-professed mastermind of the September 11th attacks is finally being brought to trial, more than a decade after the Twin Towers fell. NY1's Bobby Cuza, who will be traveling to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba this weekend for the arraignment of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged accomplices, filed this preview.
More than a decade has passed since the September 11th attacks and more than a year ago, the U.S. military killed Osama bin Laden. The September 11th National Memorial is complete and the World Trade Center is again the city’s tallest building.
Yet Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man who admits to being behind the attacks, has not faced trial, until now.
“Ten years is a long time to wait, 10-plus years. It’s a long time to wait, but it’s here, and I think the time for reckoning is now,” said Tara Henwood-Butzbaugh, who lost her brother, John Christopher Henwood, in the attacks.
Thursday, Henwood-Butzbaugh was traveling to Guantanamo Bay, where on Saturday Mohammed and four co-conspirators will be arraigned in a military court.
More than 250 family members wanted to be here; Henwood was one of just six selected by lottery. She said she wants to put a human face to the victims.
“It’s important to be there, to bear witness. And just like anyone would be in a courtroom no matter where their loved one was killed, you would be there no matter where it was,” said Henwood-Butzbaugh.
The case has been a story of fits and starts. Captured nine years ago and eventually brought to Guantanamo, Mohammed and the others were not arraigned until 2008.
After taking office, President Barack Obama sought to have the men tried at the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan.
“I had full confidence in the ability of the people in New York, the authorities in New York, to try this case safely and securely in New York City,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in April 2011.
Congress blocked the move, forcing the administration to reverse course.
All five men now face the death penalty if convicted of murder, terrorism and other charges.
Saturday’s arraignment, when the accused men will enter pleas, is just the first step in the process; trial arguments may not get underway for months.
While the proceedings will not be televised, September 11th victims' family members and first responders can watch Saturday’s arraignment at Ft. Hamilton in Brooklyn, one of four sites throughout the northeast where it is being broadcast on closed circuit.