In testimony that almost seemed designed to seal his fate, al Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui told a jury Thursday that he has “no regret, no remorse” for concealing the Sept. 11 attacks, which he wishes could be duplicated every day.
In a matter-of-fact tone, he said he is willing to kill Americans “any time, anywhere.” A prosecutor asked Moussaoui why he smiled this week when an anguished widow and military officers described the Sept. 11 deaths of soldiers at the Pentagon.
“Make my day,” he shot back, his jaw set.
Testifying for a second time in the sentencing trial to decide whether he should be executed, Moussaoui dealt new blows to a defense legal team devastated by his earlier admission that he was training, when arrested, to fly a fifth plane into the White House on Sept. 11.
Yet in a bizarre twist, Moussaoui also said he is certain that a dream he had that President Bush will release him from prison before leaving office will come true. He said that if he had the Muslim lawyer he has demanded four years, rather than his court-appointed defense team, his attorney might urge the jury to “save American lives by keeping me alive” for use in a future prisoner exchange.
For two-and-a-half hours, Moussaoui took advantage of what may be his last public stage before being relegated for life to a “super-max” prison or a cell on death row. He lambasted his court-appointed lawyers, assailed U.S. support for Israel and read from the Koran in predicting that Muslims will overthrow America.
After Moussaoui’s testimony, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema huddled with lawyers at the bench. Then, she told jurors that the final phase of the case is now moving so quickly that deliberations could begin early in the week.
Earlier in the trial, defense lawyers submitted declassified statements from senior al Qaeda officials in an effort to show that Moussaoui was a “hanger-on” who had no role in the Sept. 11 plot. When he testified that he was to pilot a fifth plane with shoe-bomber Richard Reid in his crew, they set about trying to prove he was lying in search of “a place in history.” This week, they subpoenaed Reid, who has never acknowledged being part of the operation.
But under cross examination Thursday, Moussaoui said Reid “had not a single clue” about the plot and that al Qaeda operations chief Mohammed Atef directed him to keep it secret. That boast probably can’t be refuted: Atef was killed during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.
Chief prosecutor Robert Spencer asked Moussaoui whether he regretted lying to federal agents in Minnesota to conceal the Sept. 11th operation.
“No regret, no remorse,” Moussaoui said. “I just wish it had happened the 12th, the 13th, the 14th, the 15th, the 16th, the 17th. I can go on and on. . . . There’s no remorse for justice.”
As for testimony during the trial from more than 30 Sept. 11 survivors and victims’ relatives to describe their anguish, Moussaoui said: “I find it disgusting that some people will come here to share their grief so they can obtain somebody else’s death.” Moussaoui’s testimony exposed more sharply than ever his deep rift with the court-appointed defense team assigned to keep him alive. Moussaoui won the right to represent himself for nearly six months in 2002, but Brinkema revoked it because of what she called his flood of inflammatory, offensive and frivolous pleadings. He said he never trusted his court-appointed lawyers, because they were only seeking “fame.”
Defense lawyer Gerald Zerkin asked Moussaoui repeatedly whether he thought his lawyers were in a plot to kill him, apparently to support defense psychiatric findings that Moussaoui is a paranoid schizophrenic.
Moussaoui finally conceded he didn’t really believe that the White House would secretly ask defense lawyers to arrange his killings because “there’s a lot of Deep Throats, a lot of Woodward-Bernsteins.”
Moussaoui complained that his attorneys never sought a change of venue, to a courthouse farther from the Pentagon, and that they never “adapted” to his self-incriminating testimony before jurors found him eligible for a death sentence.
But when pressed as to what they could have done after his admissions, he said, that “would take more reflection.”
He acknowledged cooperating with government psychiatrists who want to find him sane, while spitting water repeatedly on a defense psychiatric expert who recently tried to meet with him.
Zerkin asked him to explain his hatred of Americans. After reading a passage from the Muslim holy book, the Koran, Moussaoui pointed to a 1,400-year conflict between western religions and Muslims.
“From an Islamic point of view, we have to be a super power and we have to be above you and you have to be subdued,” he said. Referring to attacks on Muslims, he said: “I want you to share the pain.”
He said that for America, “there is no difference between the Jewish state of Palestine and Hawaii,” calling Israel “a missing star in the American flag.”
He said Islamic fundamentalists would someday be “the exterminators” of American Jews, but that, “for Christians, we will accommodate them if they don’t fight us.”
Moussaoui complained that the Federal Public Defender’s office in Alexandria failed to find him a Muslim lawyer, saying he wanted to work with Charles Freeman, a Texas lawyer who visited him in his cell early in the case. Later, he acknowledged that Freeman had died.
Moussaoui dismissed as “bogus” his lawyers’ attempts to underscore pre-Sept. 11 U.S. intelligence lapses in arguing that the government knew more about the suicide hijacking plot than Moussaoui did and his cooperation wouldn’t have stopped the attacks.
Moussaoui said he wanted a two-pronged defense. He said jurors might be persuaded, as was the jury in the case of the 1998 African embassy bombings, that execution would allow the terrorists to die as martyrs. And he said keeping him alive would give the U.S. government a “bargaining chip.”
Zerkin asked whether he ever told Alan Yamamoto, the one defense attorney with whom he talked, that he wanted such a defense. Moussaoui replied: “I don’t think so.”