Monday, March 27, 2006

Zacarias Moussaoui testified today that he was supposed to fly a fifth plane into the White House on 9/11. I don't understand why so many people are taking this at face value. I'm skeptical, for the reasons talked about by Andrew Cohen of CBS:

... Moussaoui's jaw-dropping performance ... leaves open two fundamental questions which jurors ultimately must resolve. First, they will have to determine whether Moussaoui is now, finally, telling the truth (after such a long history of lies) or whether this is just another attempt to aggrandize his own stature in the antisocial registry of terrorists. Remember, there are plenty of intelligence officials, and now-captured al Qaeda leaders, who see Moussaoui as a terrorist-wannabe, a buffoon, a failure, a cheerleader who now wants desperately to be executed by America as a so-called martyr for jihad even though he wasn't clever or competent enough in 2001 to carry out his role as a terrorist.

The defense now will have to pivot to emphasize this side of Moussaoui. Fortunately for them, at least, there is some material with which to work. Jurors now are learning (in the form of written summaries of statements) what Moussaoui's al Qaeda bosses thought of him -- and I can virtually guarantee you that it will not necessarily synch up with what Moussaoui's own perceptions of his role in the terror network.... Indeed, before the day was out, jurors had heard the words of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the nuts-and-bolts planner of the horror of 9-11, whose summarized testimony indicated that Moussaoui was on al Qaeda's "back burner" and designated for another wave of attacks after 9-11.

And jurors will have to decide, too, whether Moussaoui isn't just a bit too eager to seal his own doom. You can bet that if the case goes much further defense counsel will tell jurors that recommending a death sentence for Moussaoui will be a gift to him rather than a punishment. Normally, that type of pap never flies with a jury. But there is little about this case that is normal. Don't give this creepy, kooky, slimly terrorist what he wants, the defense is likely to tell jurors, as it turns on its own witness the way he has turned on them for years in this case. And there was an element of farce to Moussaoui's testimony; as if he were delighted to subvert his own defense and confound his own tormentors.

Here's Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's take on Moussaoui, according to CNN:

After Moussaoui's testimony, the defense introduced the statements from Mohammed.

Moussaoui was a "problem from the start," Mohammed said. He eventually ordered plot coordinator Ramzi Binalshibh to wire Moussaoui money for flight school and cut off ties.

Moussaoui had a hard time following instructions and was "lax with operational security," sending too many e-mails and making too many phone calls, according to Mohammed's testimony.

The potential targets for the second wave of attacks -- the White House, the Sears Tower in Chicago, Illinois, the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles, California -- were not even finalized, he said.

If Mohammed is lying, what does he gain from it? Nothing. His words certainly don't please the people holding him. But if Moussaoui is lying, by doing so he may have singlehandedly won himself a jihadist's martyrdom when it seemed as if his life might be spared.

He wanted to do horrible things. He might have been part of a second wave of attacks. But I don't believe this story.

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