GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA - Five men charged with plotting the September 11th attacks told a military judge Monday that they want to immediately confess at their war-crimes tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, setting up likely guilty pleas and their possible executions.
The five said they decided to abandon all efforts to defend themselves against the capital charges on November 4th, the day Barack Obama was elected to the White House. It was as if they wanted to rush toward convictions before Obama - who has vowed to end the war-crimes trials and close Guantanamo - takes office.
Abruptly reversing course on previous attempts to defend themselves in the death-penalty case, the five announced they wanted to drop all motions presented on their behalf. The judge said competency hearings were pending for two of the detainees, precluding them from immediately filing pleas.
The alleged mastermind of the attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, said he is ready to confess but will wait until all five can respond in unison. "We want everyone to plea together," he said. Two other defendants also decided to postpone their pleas.
Earlier Monday in a letter the judge, Army Col. Stephen Henley, read aloud in court, the five defendants said they "request an immediate hearing session to announce our confessions."
The letter implies they want to plead guilty, but does not specify whether they will admit to any specific charges.
The desire to confess is part of a pattern started by Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 21st hijacker - arrested before the 9/11 attacks - who essentially confessed in federal court in Virginia a few years ago to being part of the terror organization.
The idea is to confess and then dare military officials to execute them to create some sort of martyrdom — to turn the case into even more political theater than it has already been.
Mohammed, who has already told interrogators he was the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, also told the judge Monday that he had no faith in him, his Pentagon-appointed lawyers or President George W. Bush.
Sporting a chest-length gray beard, Mohammed said in English: "I don't trust you."
The pretrial hearings this week could be the last court appearance for the high-profile detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The first U.S. war-crimes trials since World War II are teetering on the edge of extinction. Obama opposes the military commissions - as the Guantanamo trials are called - and has pledged to close the detention center holding some 250 men soon after taking office next month.