Gitmo decide opens up over personal expertise on 9/11 and divulges his ideas on Islam

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — The decide presiding over the demise penalty case in opposition to 5 al Qaeda members who performed key roles in 9/11 stated he wasn’t “shocked” the terrorist assault occurred however was shocked by its huge “scope” as he recounted his private expertise whereas grilled by protection legal professionals Wednesday.

Air Drive Col. Matthew McCall took over the case on Tuesday, making him the fourth decide to preside over hearings on this iteration of the 9/11 case. On Tuesday, the U.S. Courtroom of Navy Fee Evaluation, which oversees the island conflict courtroom, handed down a ruling that shot down protection claims the Pentagon had unlawfully influenced selections on which decide ought to preside over the case. McCall was grilled by the protection and prosecution on Wednesday as a part of the “voir dire” course of.

McCall was requested about his private expertise on Sept. 11, 2001, by Gary Sowards, a protection lawyer for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who additionally represented the “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski. Mohammed, dubbed “KSM” and described as   “the principal architect of the 9/11 assaults” within the 9/11 Fee Report, was an in depth ally of Osama bin Laden and is being tried alongside 4 co-defendants: his nephew, Ammar Baluchi, alleged hijacking coach Walid bin Attash, 9/11 facilitator Ramzi bin Shibh, and al Qaeda cash man Mustafa Hawsawi.

The decide stated he was residing in Hawaii on the time of 9/11 after graduating from regulation faculty on the College of Hawaii. The island state is six hours behind Jap Commonplace Time, so it was only a few hours after midnight in Hawaii when the hijacked planes struck, and McCall’s roommate woke him up, saying, “Hey, there’s been an assault.”

McCall stated he then sat in the lounge together with his roommate and watched information protection all morning. McCall stated his older brother has lived in Queens for roughly 35 years and that his mom texted him that morning to inform him his brother was OK.

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Lt. Cmdr. Leah O’Brien, a navy officer assigned as a protection lawyer for Baluchi, requested McCall additional questions on his reminiscences.


McCall stated he visited his brother in New York Metropolis together with his household in 2013, and so they went to the place the World Commerce Heart had been and visited the memorial. The decide stated that it was then that his brother talked about to him then that he had been in Manhattan on 9/11, together with his brother calling it a “chaotic day” making an attempt to get residence to Queens. McCall stated he beloved his brother however wasn’t very shut with him, so that’s the reason he hadn’t realized it till a decade later, including that “I by no means even considered him as potential sufferer” of 9/11.

The decide was requested how he felt when visiting the 9/11 memorial and stated, “Unhappy, much like the sentiments of when it first occurred. Simply such a lack of life.” He additionally stated of 9/11: “I recall being shocked on the scope of it. … The truth that there was a terrorist assault didn’t shock me. … Extremely unhappy. Such a tragic lack of life.”

When requested if 9/11 performed a job in him becoming a member of the navy, McCall stated, “It actually didn’t.” The decide referred to as himself a longtime “navy brat” and stated he visited a navy base in Okinawa when taking part in rugby and instructing English in Japan and stated he felt comfy there.

Within the twenty years because the assaults, the 5 males believed to be chargeable for the planning and execution of the plot have but to face trial . The important thing query of whether or not confessions obtained by the FBI after their CIA custody ought to be admissible stays unresolved.

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When the decide was requested about his ideas on Islam, he stated he was a Christian, and he didn’t consider in seeing the vast majority of Muslims as one way or the other hostile to Christians and Jewish folks.

Cheryl Borman, a protection lawyer for bin Attash, grilled him additional over his views on Islam, and he stated: “I don’t assume you possibly can have a look at Islam as one massive block. … Folks that observe virtually any of the main religions have all kinds of views. … Some are going to be extra illiberal, some are going to be extra tolerant. … It’s not monolithic.”

KSM’s lawyer additionally requested the decide if he may think about the 9/11 mastermind to be presumed harmless. McCall stated he requested himself two questions earlier than accepting the job: “Am I actually certified?” and “Can I be truthful?” McCall stated the solutions have been sure.

Mohammed confessed to planning the 9/11 assaults in a March 2007 assertion to the Combatant Standing Evaluation Tribunal.

After a number of scuttled navy commissions, quite a few retired judges, battles over labeled info, and accusations of torture, the demise penalty trial had been set for 2021, however COVID-19 upended that.

McCall stated: “I get it. This case has been happening for a extremely very long time. … I really feel zero strain to get this case executed.”

He stated he wish to see “some progress,” however he felt there was “no strain to hurry this into trial.”

“Conviction or acquittal — that’s not my job,” McCall stated. “I’ll sleep nicely if I strive my greatest to make sure it is a truthful course of.”

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