Moussaoui pleads guilty, plea accepted
on Apr 22, 2005 at 4:36 pm
Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged in the U.S. with a crime for the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, on Friday pleaded guilty to all six conspiracy counts alleging he had a role in the plot that resulted in nearly 3,000 deaths that day.
Among other admissions he made in signing a five-page statement of facts, Moussaoui said that after his arrest before September 11, he lied to federal agents in order to help his Al Qaeda “brothers” go forward with the attacks as planned. His statement was later described by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales as “a chilling admission of guilt.” Moussaoui also admitted that his own assigned role was to fly a plane into the White House if the U.S. did not negotiate over releasing a sheikh convicted of an earlier attack on the World Trade Center.
Gonzales said at a press conference that the government would continue to seek a death penalty. “The fact that Moussaoui participated in this terrorist plot is no longer in doubt…With today’s guilty plea, we now move to the penalty phase of this case on a schedule to be established by the judge” — U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema in Alexandria, Va.
Death is a possible sentence on each of four of the six counts to which Moussaoui pleaded guilty..
News reporters in the courtroom at the time he offered the plea said that he told the judge: “I expect no leniency.”
Judge Brinkema accepted the plea, as she had indicated earlier she would, having found Moussaoui mentally competent to plead guilty to the indictment. According to those present in the courtroom, she remarked that Moussaoui understood the case against him, and “has a better understanding of the legal system than some lawyers I have seen in court.”
Moussaoui has been under indictment on terrorist conspiracy charges since December 2001. His case has never gone to trial because of a series of pre-trial legal conflicts, most importantly over his access to captured Al Qaeda operatives who, Judge Brinkema found, could give testimony favorable to his defense.
Moussaoui’s public defender lawyers at one point attempted to take his case to the Supreme Court, over the issue of proceeding with a capital prosecution when the accused had been denied direct access to witnesses who could aid in the defense. The Supreme Court refused on March 21 to hear that appeal.
Following are two documents released Friday: first, the statement of facts signed by Moussaoui, and, second, the text of Attorney General Gonzales’ statement on the guilty plea, as released by the Justice Department.
Moussaoui signed this statement. In the copy entered on the Court’s docket, Moussaoui signed the statement first as “20th hijacker,” then added his name and two aliases.
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. ZACARIAS MOUSSAOUI, defendant
Criminal No. 01-455-A
Statement of Facts
If this case were to go to trial, the Government would prove the following facts beyond a reasonable doubt:
1. Al Qaeda was an international terrorist group dedicated to opposing the United States with force and violence. Usama Bin Laden was the founder and head of al Qaeda. The leadership of al Qaeda included Abu Hafs al Masri, who served as the head of al Qaedaâ€™s military committee. Since 1996, al Qaeda maintained headquarters in Afghanistan. Members of al Qaeda pledged bayat to Usama Bin Laden and al Qaeda. Al Qaeda associated with other terrorist groups.
2. Usama Bin Laden and al Qaeda declared a jihad against the United States. Bin Laden and members of al Qaeda issued fatwahs indicating that violent attacks on the United States and its citizens were both proper and necessary and that Muslims should kill Americans -including civilians – anywhere in the world, anytime.
3. Usama Bin Laden and al Qaeda provided and supported training camps and guesthouses in Afghanistan, including camps known as al Farooq and Khalden. These camps were used to instruct members and associates of al Qaeda and its affiliated groups in the use of firearms, explosives, chemical weapons, and other weapons of mass destruction.
4. Defendant Zacarias Moussaoui, who also used the names â€œAbu Khaled al Sahrawiâ€ and â€œShaquil,â€ became a member of al Qaeda and pledged bayat to Bin Laden, Moussaouiâ€™s â€œfather in jihad.â€
5. Moussaoui trained at al Qaedaâ€™s Khalden Camp in Afghanistan.
6. Moussaoui managed an al Qaeda guesthouse in Kandahar. This was a position of high respect within al Qaeda. Moussaoui communicated directly with Bin Laden and Abu Hafs al Masri.
7. As part of its conspiracy to attack the United States, al Qaeda members conceived of an operation in which civilian commercial airliners would be hijacked and flown into prominent buildings, including government buildings, in the United States. To effect this attack, al Qaeda associates entered the United States, received funding from abroad, engaged in physical fitness training, and obtained knives and other weapons with which to take over airliners. Some al Qaeda associates obtained pilot training, including training on commercial jet simulators, so they would be able to fly hijacked aircraft into their targets.
8. Bin Laden personally approved those selected to participate in the operation, who were willing to die in furtherance of their religious beliefs and al Qaedaâ€™s agenda.
9. Moussaoui knew of al Qaedaâ€™s plan to fly airplanes into prominent buildings in the United States and he agreed to travel to the United States to participate in the plan. Bin Laden personally selected Moussaoui to participate in the operation to fly planes into American
buildings and approved Moussaoui attacking the White House. Bin Laden told Moussaoui: â€œSahrawi, remember your dream.â€
10. An al Qaeda associate provided Moussaoui with information about flight schools in the United States. In September 2000, Moussaoui, who was in Malaysia, contacted the Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma, via email, seeking flight training. Moussaoui intended to use his training as a pilot in furtherance of al Qaedaâ€™s plan to use planes to kill Americans.
11. Moussaoui trained in knife fighting in Afghanistan.
12. On February 23, 2001, Moussaoui traveled from London to Chicago and then on to Norman, Oklahoma, where he attended the Airman Flight School and received training as a pilot. At the Airman Flight School, Moussaoui received training as a pilot of smaller planes. In
Summer 2001, an al Qaeda associate directed Moussaoui to attend training for larger jet planes.
13. While in Oklahoma, Moussaoui joined a gym and bought knives. Moussaoui selected certain knives because they had blades short enough to get past airport security.
14. In early August 2001, an al Qaeda conspirator using the alias of â€œAhad Sabet,â€ wire transferred money from Germany to Moussaoui in Oklahoma so Moussaoui could receive additional flight training.
15. In August 2001, Moussaoui traveled to Minnesota where he trained on a Boeing 747-400 simulator at the Pan Am International Flight Academy in Eagan, Minnesota. Moussaoui told an al Qaeda associate that he would complete simulator training before September 2001.
16. On August 16, 2001, Moussaoui was arrested in Minnesota by agents of the INS and the FBI. At the time of his arrest, Moussaoui possessed the following items:
— two knives;
— flight manuals for the Boeing 747 Model 400;
— a flight simulator computer program;
— fighting gloves and shin guards;
— a piece of paper referring to a handheld Global Positioning System;
— software that could be used to review pilot procedures for the Boeing 747 Model 400; and
— a hand-held aviation radio.
After his arrest, Moussaoui lied to federal agents to allow his al Qaeda â€œbrothersâ€ to go forward with the operation to fly planes into American buildings. Specifically, Moussaoui falsely denied being a member of a terrorist organization and falsely denied that he was taking pilot training to kill Americans. Instead, Moussaoui told federal agents that he was training as a pilot purely for his personal enjoyment and that, after completion of his training, he intended to visit New York City and Washington, D.C., as a tourist.
17. On September 11, 2001, al Qaeda operatives used force and violence to hijack American Airlines Flight 11, bound from Boston to Los Angeles, and crashed it into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City, destroying the building and killing
thousands of people.
18. On September 11, 2001, al Qaeda operatives used force and violence to hijack United Airlines Flight 175, bound from Boston to Los Angeles, and crashed it into the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City, destroying the building and killing
thousands of people.
19. The World Trade Center was a complex of buildings owned by the Port Authority of New Jersey\New York, which was constructed for the purpose of housing businesses engaged in interstate and foreign commerce. As a result of the crashes of American Airlines Flight 11 and United Flight 175, approximately 2,830 people died in or around the World Trade complex. Among those killed at the World Trade, the dead included 343 firefighters from the New York Fire Department, 37 law enforcement officers from the Port Authority of New Jersey/New York,and 23 law enforcement officers from the New York City Police Department. World Trade Center Towers I (North Tower) and II (South Tower) were completely destroyed, as were other buildings in the World Trade Center complex. The destruction of these buildings resulted in the disruption of interstate and international commerce for those businesses located in the World Trade Center complex. Additionally, the offices of the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Customs
Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, all of which were housed in the World Trade Center complex, were destroyed.
20. On September 11, 2001, al Qaeda operatives used force and violence to hijack American Airlines Flight 77, bound from Virginia to Los Angeles, and crashed it into the Pentagon, a United States government building, damaging the building and killing 189 people,
many of whom were United States government employees, including employees of the United States Department of Defense, engaged in their official duties.
21. On September 11, 2001, al Qaeda operatives used force and violence to hijack United Airlines Flight 93, bound from Newark to San Francisco, which then crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, killing all on board.
[paragraph 22 is omitted in the original]
23. All four airplanes identified above were flying in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States at the time that they were hijacked and all were completely destroyed.
Seen and agreed,
The Justice Department released this statement:
PREPARED REMARKS OF ATTORNEY GENERAL ALBERTO R. GONZALES ON ZACARIAS MOUSSAOUI
FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 2005
Good Afternoon. I am joined today by the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, Chris Wray; by the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Paul McNulty; by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Dave Kelley; and by the Deputy Director of the FBI, John Pistole.
All Americans remember the images of September 11th, 2001, when nineteen men hijacked four commercial airplanes to commit the largest terrorist attack in our history. We also remember the heroes of that day – brave police officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, National Guard troops, passengers on Flight 93, and everyday men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to help others. Together with every American, they honored the thousands of victims with acts of ordinary goodwill and extraordinary patriotism.
In the wake of these horrific attacks, the U.S. Government, working with our allies, launched an unprecedented global investigation – the largest of its kind – to identify and bring to justice those who participated in this conspiracy to kill thousands of innocent lives.
As part of that effort, just a short while ago at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, Zacarias Moussaoui pled guilty to charges related to his role in the conspiracy that brought about the September 11th terrorist attacks. Specifically, Moussaoui pled guilty to:
Â· Conspiracy to Commit Acts of Terrorism Transcending National Boundaries,
Â· Conspiracy to Commit Aircraft Piracy,
Â· Conspiracy to Destroy Aircraft,
Â· Conspiracy to Use Weapons of Mass Destruction,
Â· Conspiracy to Murder United States Employees, and
Â· Conspiracy to Destroy Property
Four of these charges authorize a maximum penalty of death, and as you know, we are seeking the death penalty in this case, for reasons that are spelled out in detail in the United States’ 2002 notice of intent to seek the death penalty.
The fact that Moussaoui participated in this terrorist plot is no longer in doubt. In a chilling admission of guilt, Moussaoui confessed to his participation, including the following specific actions:
– That he trained with al Qaeda in Afghanistan and communicated directly with Usama bin Laden;
– That Usama bin Laden personally selected Moussaoui to participate in an operation to fly hijacked airplanes into American buildings, and approved him attacking the White House;
– That he came to the United States to receive flight training to carry out his terrorist mission, intending that such training would be used to further al Qaeda’s plan to use planes to kill Americans;
– That he communicated to an al Qaeda associate that he would be finished with jet simulator training before September 2001;
– That he continued to receive financial and other support from al Qaeda after arriving in the United States for pilot training;
– And that after being arrested in Minnesota on August 16, 2001, by Immigration agents, Moussaoui lied to federal agents in order to allow his al Qaeda “brothers” – his words – to go forward with the operation to fly airplanes into American buildings.
Moussaoui and his co-conspirators were responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocents on September 11th – each one a son or daughter, father or mother, husband or wife. Families left without loved ones on that day grieved, and continue to grieve, tragic losses…and America grieved with them.
From that grief, however, emerged a steely resolve in the American people. And from resolve came decisive action by their government. The mission of the Justice Department was transformed to make the fight against terrorism our number one priority. And President Bush told U.S. Attorneys at the Justice Department that they would play an important role in the war on terror – prosecuting terrorists aggressively, but fairly and in keeping with the high standards of our system of justice.
We have acted fairly and patiently to bring Moussaoui to justice. A grand jury indicted Moussaoui in December 2001. He has received legal counsel. He has been heard numerous times in federal district court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and he has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court.
Moussaoui now joins shoe bomber Richard Reid, John Walker Lindh, and more than two hundred other individuals who have been convicted or pled guilty to terrorism-related charges since Nine-Eleven. With today’s guilty plea, we now move to the penalty phase of this case on a schedule to be established by the judge.
The Justice Department will continue working to break up terrorist cells within our borders – as we have from Buffalo, New York, to Portland, Oregon – and to prosecute terrorists using every legal tool available.
Countless dedicated public servants have contributed to these successes in the war on terror. Today, I would like to recognize the team of investigators and prosecutors that made today’s conviction possible. This team was assembled – and was hard at work, and was getting results – long before I became Attorney General, and they are the ones who deserve the credit for this conviction.
Â· The Criminal Division of the Justice Department, led by Chris Wray;
Â· U.S. Attorneys Paul McNulty and Dave Kelley and their teams;
Â· The Federal Bureau of Investigation led by Director Bob Mueller and represented today by Deputy Director Pistole.
This team – working with many other federal, state, and local law enforcement officials across the country – has worked tirelessly on this and other terrorism cases. I thank them for their dedicated service. They have lived up to the Department’s mission – to “enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States” – and they have earned the thanks of a grateful Nation.