By Jim Loney
Originally published July 22, 2008
Someone has just brought to my attention a possible interpretation of this statement different than what I had come to, so in the spirit of accurate reporting and non-sensationalism, I am adding this for your consideration. As always, we hope you carefully interpret all information coming to you, no matter what the source, (including ours, of course). My interpretation of these comments was that Stone was simply making the case (the crux of the case) that Hamdan knew the target, therefore Hamdan must have been a party to the attack. I had not considered that Stone may have been (supposedly) quoting Hamdan fully, and that Hamdan may have been the one reported as having said, “If they hadn’t shot it down…,” not Stone. Nonetheless, it seems quite odd that the US prosecution, led by military officers, would have made any reference to Flight 93 having been shot down… [End of update.]
A couple key points here from the Gitmo show trials not really being shown:
1) Defense attorney for bin Laden’s driver, Salim Hamdan, stated: “There will be no evidence that Mr. Hamdan espoused or believed or embraced any form of what you will hear about, radical Islam beliefs, extremist Muslim beliefs.” Where have we heard that before? A little like Atta and friends drinking Dewars scotch, paying for lap dances, partying it up… fundamentalist Muslims who hate Americans’ ‘freedoms’? I think not…
2) “‘If they hadn’t shot down the fourth plane it would’ve hit the dome,’ Stone, a Navy officer, said in his opening remarks.” Excuse me? Shot it down? But what about the ‘brave passengers’ daring revolt’ that brought that plane down into a field in Pennsylvania and courageously saved the Capitol or White House?
The Official Myth never held water well, but now it’s leaking like a sieve… No wonder they won’t let 9/11 victims’ family members attend “the most just war crimes trial that anyone has ever seen.” (Related: September Eleventh Advocates press release on need for fair trials: They might finally get real answers to some of the 70% of questions they presented to the 9/11 Commission that were never addressed. And it is long past time for real answers.
Guantánamo BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) – Osama bin Laden’s driver knew the target of the fourth hijacked jetliner in the September 11 attacks, a prosecutor said on Tuesday in an attempt to draw a link between Salim Hamdan and the al Qaeda leadership in the first Guantánamo war crimes trial.
Hamdan’s lawyer said in opening statements that the Yemeni, held for nearly seven years before his trial, was just a paid employee of the fugitive al Qaeda leader, a driver in the motor pool who never joined the militant group or plotted attacks on America.
But prosecutor Timothy Stone told the six-member jury of U.S. military officers who will decide Hamdan’s guilt or innocence that Hamdan had inside knowledge of the 2001 attacks on the United States because he overheard a conversation between bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
“If they hadn’t shot down the fourth plane it would’ve hit the dome,” Stone, a Navy officer, said in his opening remarks.
The tribunal’s chief prosecutor, Col. Lawrence Morris, later explained that Stone was quoting Hamdan in evidence that will be presented at trial. Morris declined to say if the “dome” was a reference to the U.S. Capitol.
“Virtually no one knew the intended target, but the accused knew,” Stone said.
United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a field in rural Pennsylvania. U.S. officials have never stated it was shot down although rumors saying that abound to this day.
Hamdan, a father of two with a fourth-grade education, is charged with conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism in the first U.S. war crimes trial since World War Two. He could face life in prison if convicted.
Prosecutors say Hamdan had access to al Qaeda’s inner circle. Stone told the jury that Hamdan earned the trust of bin Laden and helped him flee after attacks on U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998 and the September 11 attacks.
“He served as bodyguard, driver, transported and delivered weapons, ammunition and supplies to al Qaeda,” Stone said.
Hamdan was being tried in a hilltop courthouse at the U.S. Navy base in Guantánamo Bay, which has been a lightning rod for criticism of the United States since early 2002, when it began housing a prison camp to hold alleged Taliban and al Qaeda fighters from the battlefields of Afghanistan.
The war crimes tribunal system has been criticized by human rights groups and defense lawyers, some of them U.S. military officers. Detainees have been held for years without charges.
Washington has declared them unlawful enemy combatants not entitled to the rights afforded formal prisoners of war.
Responding to the widespread criticism, Morris, the chief prosecutor, said on Tuesday: “In my opinion they are seeing the most just war crimes trial that anyone has ever seen.”
WORKED FOR WAGES
Defense lawyer Harry Schneider described Hamdan as a poor Yemeni who lost his parents at a young age and lived on the streets, where he developed a knack for fixing cars.
“The evidence is that he worked for wages. He didn’t wage attacks on America,” he said. “He had a job because he had to earn a living, not because he had a jihad against America.”
“There will be no evidence that Mr. Hamdan espoused or believed or embraced any form of what you will hear about, radical Islam beliefs, extremist Muslim beliefs,” he said.
The first two prosecution witnesses were U.S. military officers who were in Afghanistan during the early days of the U.S. invasion in 2001. Both addressed a key issue at trial — whether Hamdan had surface-to-air missiles when he was captured at a checkpoint near Takhteh Pol in November 2001.
Defense lawyers dispute the prosecution’s contention that Hamdan had the weapons. But a U.S. officer identified only as “Sergeant Major A” said the missiles were found in the “trunk of a car driven by Mr. Hamdan.”
He said troops also found a mortar manual with “al Qaeda” on the front, a book by bin Laden and a card issued to al Qaeda fighters and signed by Mullah Omar, the Taliban commander.
Ali Soufan, an al Qaeda expert with the FBI, took the jury through a long description of al Qaeda’s hierarchy and called bin Laden “the emir, the prince.” He said Hamdan was part of bin Laden’s security detail.
“The people who are around bin Laden have to be trusted … true believers in the cause,” he said.
(Editing by Eric Beech)