Wednesday, March 29, 2006

"I am learning the hard way that every word count in this life."

After 11 months in solitary confinement in a small cell with the light permanently switched on, Zacarias Moussaoui is on the verge of confessing to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Last summer, in the early days of this electrifying show trial, the Washington Post published an article by Philip Kennicott. Extracts follow, with links and emphases added:

A Window on The Mind of Moussaoui

Washington Post, July 25th 2005

...In short bursts of three, four and five pages, he [has] written letters to the world, decrying injustice, pleading for aid, and warning of God's wrath. They are not exclusively the megaphone for propaganda that many worried would emerge from his efforts to represent himself against an indictment charging that he was to have participated in last year's terrorist attacks.

Rather, they show an angry man focused on what he feels is American hypocrisy and determined to hold this country to its stated principles of freedom and justice. Even as observers speculate about Moussaoui's mental stability, his writings suggest that he was developing a legal strategy, if not to save himself then to call to account those who he feels are abusing him.

[...]

Although he feels cut off from the world (barred from seeing anyone but lawyers and family), he hasn't lost touch with it. He knows of his celebrity as the only person facing the death penalty for crimes committed in the alleged conspiracy. He fears for his safety: "Alexandria Jail is constantly having new Deputy, it will be easy to claim that a distraught Sept 11 family member gain employment and shoot me." He's afraid that a stun belt will be used to subdue him in court, or that an incident will be manufactured as a pretext for killing him.

[...]

As he simultaneously engages and dismisses the justice of a "godless" government, and as his distrust of Brinkema grows, he feels increasingly trapped. His efforts to force foreign governments to admit their alleged collusion with the FBI come to nothing. Letters to the outside world are intercepted. He is prevented from working with his requested legal adviser, the Muslim lawyer Charles Freeman from Texas, who late yesterday made his first formal effort to assist Moussaoui; and his pleadings are sometimes held under seal or redacted. "So I am still in my cave," he writes.

He seems aware that his anger could be used against him in an effort to have him declared mentally incapable of defending himself. He refers consistently to a conspiracy to have him judged unfit, and his fear of being declared insane is striking. Being declared insane, he feels, would lead immediately to his execution. In legal terms, it might be the one thing that can save him, but it would also cost him an argument that he considers a strong defense. He asserts that he could not have been one of the hijackers because that would mean he intended to commit suicide. And, he lectures, "The right to life is a fundamental right in Islam. Everybody should know that Islam does condemn suicide."

[...] His fear, in this pleading, is that a jury won't distinguish between his admiration for Bin Laden and alleged participation in the hijacking plot. And in one of his most revealing statements, he suggests that he is bound by a sense of personal honor to avoid any prosecutorial attempt to catch him in a lie: "Basically a jury might spare the death penalty to their enmy but they will not to a coward liar."

His attempt to connect the FBI to a 9/11 coverup scheme is a constant, but it grew more insistent as he became aware of FBI agent Coleen Rowley's criticism of agency brass. He refers to her as the "whistle blower," as someone the FBI is afraid of, and as someone who can prove his claim that FBI knew of his activities all along. In a pleading filed July 9, he says, "I must be able to speak on: why Colleen Rowley . . . should testify to prove the FBI COVER UP." Although often vague about the details of that coverup, Moussaoui says "the FBI facilitated the movement of the 19 hijacker in the US [and] will kill Zacarias Moussaoui to silence him." It seems paradoxical that Moussaoui, even while distancing himself from the 19 hijackers, would goad the FBI for information that could connect him to the plot. But he insists repeatedly that he was not one of the 19, that he "was not in 19 martyrs team."

Strictly speaking, he wasn't one of the 19 hijackers. He was arrested in Minnesota on immigration charges almost a month before the Sept. 11 attacks. Between intending to do something -- whether it's murder or marriage -- and actually doing it, lies an existential gulf.

As proof that he never intended to commit suicide, and thus was never part of the plot to fly planes into buildings, he cites his efforts to get married. He wants the FBI to reveal that he approached an imam in Norman, Okla., and asked for his assistance with finding a wife. "Of course the FBI did not want to declassified this interview because it confirm that I intended (and still intend) to have a family. A jury might find a bit difficult to believe that even a Muslim fundamentalist will marry one day and kill himself the next." [...]

Complete article here.

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