A possible plea deal with five remaining al-Qaeda terrorists locked up in Guantanamo Bay has some in the 9/11 community reeling just as the anniversary of the terror attack marked its 21st year.
“This is not justice for the 3,000 people who died that day and the many more who have since. This is a joke,” said Debra Burlingame, whose brother was one of the pilots killed on 9/11.
Burlingame, who is an attorney, has learned that the Biden administration could be negotiating potential plea deals to remove the death penalty against 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other alleged accomplices.
Other reports back up her fears of life instead of capital punishment for the killers.
“Do they want to trade Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? I intend to fight this with everything I have,” she told the Herald Monday.
Burlingame’s brother was one of the pilots killed on Flight 77 that the terrorists slammed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, killing 64 people on the plane and 125 on the ground.
Eighteen months later, Mohammed was captured in his hideout in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. He was al-Qaeda’s #3 leader at the time.
His day in court — a military tribunal on Gitmo — has been plagued by endless delays and then the pandemic. Pretrial hearings scheduled for early fall have now been canceled.
Now news of a possible plea deal is swirling.
“It’s disgusting,” said Brian Sullivan, a now-retired Federal Aviation Administration official based in Boston who warned of a terror attack at Logan months before it happened.
“It’s a slap in the face to victims’ families. This is the architect of their loved ones’ death we’re talking about,” he added. “It’s just outrageous.”
James Connell, an attorney for one of Mohammed’s co-defendants — one accused of transferring money to 9/11 attackers — confirmed reports both sides are still “attempting to reach a pretrial agreement” that could still avoid a trial and result in lesser but still lengthy sentences, the Associated Press is reporting.
The Gitmo detainees played pivotal roles in the 9/11 attacks that allowed 19 terrorists (15 of them Saudi nationals) to slam Flights 11 and 175 — out of Logan International Airport in Boston — Flight 77 out of Dulles International Airport near Washington and Flight 93 out of Newark International Airport into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pa., when heroes on that jet said: “Let’s Roll.”
“This is hitting 9/11 families like a car bomb in the driveway,” Burlingame added late Monday night. “After all they’ve suffered, all their patience — a massive betrayal. This is a betrayal to our troops, too.”
She cited the 7,000 casualties to the War on Terror, the tens of thousands who lost limbs or suffered traumatic brain injuries. “They answered their country’s call that day,” she added, “and now their country is telling them ‘never mind, we’re moving on.’”
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