In an unexpected twist to the September 11 hearings at Guantanamo today, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-professed mastermind of the massive 2001 terrorist attacks, today spoke out to admonish the judge and lawyers in the military commissions that the term "national security" is relative and that the United States has killed many people in its name.
"You have to keep in mind that the government is using the definition of national security as it chooses," he said, after a day of lawyers' arguments over whether the defendants' own statements are classified and pose a threat to national security. "Everyone uses this expression as he chooses."
U.S. lawmakers wanted this case tried in a military commission at Guantanamo Bay in part because they claimed a trial on American soil would encourage the defendants to take advantage of American freedoms and treat the trial as their soapbox. But when KSM, dressed in his camouflage vest over white robes and wearing a white turban, raised his hand to speak in the military commission today, no one seemed to know what to do.
Judge James Pohl turned to the defendants' lawyers: "Do you know what he wants to say?" They didn't. The government didn't object to his speaking, citing the 40-second audio delay in case he said something classified. KSM assured his statement would not be classified. So after a 15-minute break, the lead defendant was given his soapbox.
"When the government feels sad for the killing of 3,000 people who were killed on September 11, we also should feel sorry that the American government who is represented by General [Mark] Martins and others who have killed thousands of people," Mohammed said through a translator. "Millions. This definition is a resilient definition. Every dictator can put on this definition as the shoes that he uses to step on every person in this world, every law and every constitution."
"Many can kill people under the name of national security," he continued. "And to torture people under the name of national security. And detain their children under the name of national security. I don't want to be long but I can say that the president can take someone and throw him in the sea in the name of national security. And so well he can also legislate the killings, assassinations, under the name of national security, for American citizens. My only advice to you that you do not get affected by the crocodile tears. Because your blood is not made of gold and ours made of water. We are all human beings. Thank you."
When he was finished, Judge Pohl, looking a little embarrassed, spoke. "This is a one-time occurrence," he told the defense attorneys seated in the courtroom before him. "If the accused wish to represent themselves, that's one issue. But no matter how heartfelt, I'm not going to entertain personal comments from the accused about how things are going. He has a right to have that opinion, he does not have the right to voice that opinion, or any accused, to give his personal observations and comments."
Tomorrow, Judge Pohl is expected to hear more arguments on the government's attempt to classify and withhold evidence, particularly pertaining to the treatment of the five defendants in U.S. custody.