After almost a decade of detention at Guantanamo Bay, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man accused of being the mastermind behind the September 11 attacks, will see his day in court.
On Wednesday, Mohammed and four others—Walid bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi—were charged with "terrorism, hijacking aircraft, conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, and destruction of property in violation of the law of war," according to a statement from the Department of Defense.
If convicted, they face the death penalty.
Mohammed allegedly worked alongside Osama bin Laden to coordinate attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the United States Capitol on Septemer 11, 2001. He is widely believed to have come up with the original plan to use hijacked airplanes as weapons, and the charges filed Wednesday accuse him of being responsible for the killing of 2,976 people.
Mohammed and the four other supposed conspirators will stand trial for war crimes before a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay. The Obama administration wanted to try the conspirators before a civilian court, but they abandoned that effort a year ago after lawmakers blocked funding for transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States under the National Defense Authorization Act.
The administration had previously argued that Mohammed should be tried in federal district court in New York City. Attorney General Eric Holder was highly critical of Congress Wednesday for restricting the Justice Department's ability to decide where to try him.
"As the president has said, those unwise and unwarranted restrictions undermine our counterterrorism efforts and could harm our national security," Holder explained. "Decisions about who, where and how to prosecute have always been—and must remain—the responsibility of the executive branch."
Still, many agree with the decision to try the suspects in military court. CNN reports that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it is "more appropriate" for the trials to be held in a "secure area," and that military tribunals are "something that this country can implement and not be ashamed of."
Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, wrote that it is "unfortunate that it took the Obama administration more than two years to figure out what the majority of Americans already know: that 9/11 conspirator Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is not a common criminal, he's a war criminal."
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured in Pakistan in 2003, and he has allegedly confessed to planning the September 11 attacks, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the Operation Bojinka plot, the failed bombing of American Airlines Flight 63 in December 2001, and a 2002 nightclub bombing in Bali, Indonesia.
Mohammed was on the FBI's initial list of the 22 most wanted terrorist fugitives following September 11.