Apparent Reversal Of Earlier Testimony May Mean Death
It was a stunning
revelation. On Monday, Zacarias Moussaoui took the stand at his
death penalty trial, and declared he was to hijack a fifth airliner
on September 11, 2001 and fly the plane into the White House.
"I was supposed to pilot a plane to hit the White House,"
Moussaoui said from the stand in an Alexandria, VA federal
courtroom. "I only knew about the two planes of the World Trade
Center in addition to my own plane."
As Moussaoui's defense attorneys -- who had protested their
client taking the stand -- looked on, the confessed al-Qaeda member
told the stunned court he was to head a five-man crew that also
included Richard Reid, the British citizen who later tried to set
off explosives in his shoes aboard a trans-Atlantic flight.
His role in the terrorist attacks, Moussaoui said, was foiled by
his arrest in August 2001.
With the revelation, Moussaoui unraveled his own defense
lawyers' argument -- that while their client has admitted to being
a terrorist conspirator, he was not connected to the 9/11 attacks.
Moussaoui himself had denied involvement in the attacks last year,
while pleading guilty to conspiring with al-Qaeda.
Almost as shocking as Moussaoui's testimony was his demeanor.
Gone was the familiar, defiant Moussaoui, prone to uncontrolled
outbursts before the jury. In his place Monday, the Seattle Times
reported, was a quiet, defiant terrorist, who looked his enemies
square in the face and said he wished to kill them.
"I consider every American to be my enemy," Moussaoui said. "For
me, every American is going to want my death because I want their
In an attempt to salvage their argument, defense attorneys were
put into the awkward position of denying their own client's
testimony. The lawyers read evidence gathered from Khalid Sheik
Mohammed, a key planner of the 9/11 attacks who is now detained by
the US at an undisclosed location.
Mohammed's words, given to interrogators, indicate Moussaoui was
to be a part of the second wave of attacks, to include targets not
hit on 9/11 -- not for the primary wave of attacks.
Nevertheless, the impact of Moussaoui's words Monday can't be
ignored -- as he admitted to the government's primary argument for
his execution, that he lied to authorities in August 2001 so the
September 11 attacks would proceed.
Moussaoui said he lied "because I wanted my mission to go
ahead," adding that he "never told them anything about the
"You hid that from
them. You concealed it, right?" asked Assistant US Attorney Robert
"Indeed," Moussaoui replied.
Legal experts told the Times those admissions, combined with
Moussaoui's steely demeanor in court Monday, would likely resonate
with the jurors who are expected to begin deliberations on
Moussaoui's fate this week. If jurors find him eligible for the
death penalty, a second phase of the hearing would determine
whether he should be executed.
Asked by defense attorney Gerald Zerkin whether being put to
death by an American court would make him a martyr, Moussaoui said
"I believe in destiny. ... What I'm doing now is just to speak the
truth, and God will take care of the rest."