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Status of the 9/11 Military Commission Case

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Location: Staten Island

PostPosted: Fri Aug 26, 2011 8:31 pm    Post subject: Status of the 9/11 Military Commission Case
From Aug 26, 2011 to Aug 28, 2011 (included)
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Dear 9/11 Families,

The purpose of this letter is to provide you with an update on the status of the 9/11 military commission case and an explanation of the process ahead. Most importantly, we want to reassure you that we continue to move forward in the preparation of the case.

Status Update

Under the Military Commissions Act and Manual for Military Commissions, there is essentially a four-step process to obtain referral of charges to be tried by a military commission: (1) charges must be sworn; (2) qualified defense counsel must be assigned to represent the accused; (3) the Legal Advisor to the Convening Authority must review the charges and evidence and make a recommendation to the Convening Authority regarding disposition of the charges; and (4) the Convening Authority must decide if the charges should go to trial, and if so, in our case, whether the death penalty can be sought.

We last wrote to inform you that charges were sworn by our office against the five accused on May 31, 2011. On that date, our office sent the sworn charges and a summary of the evidence to the Legal Advisor to the Convening Authority so the remaining steps may be taken.

As I mentioned in my previous email, the prosecutors have recommended that the case be referred for trial as capital. In capital cases, the Manual for Military Commissions requires that the accused are provided learned counsel. Learned counsel are those defense attorneys who have recognized experience in death penalty litigation. Learned counsel can be military or civilian counsel. In either case, counsel must have a security clearance and officials must conduct an appropriate background investigation prior to granting a security clearance. We have been advised that learned counsel have been identified for each accused and their security clearances have either been granted or are currently in the review process.

Consistent with the rules for Military Commission, the Convening Authority has indicated that he will consider matters submitted by the defense (with the benefit of the assistance of learned counsel) prior to making a decision on whether to refer the charges as a capital case.

The Convening Authority in his sole discretion is authorized to refer the charges to a military commission, which would be the final step in the process prior to initiation of the trial process. The role of the Convening Authority in this process is similar in many respects to that of the grand jury in the civilian criminal justice system in deciding whether to hand up an indictment. After he has had the opportunity to review all relevant materials, the Convening Authority will make his decision on whether to refer the case to trial by military commission and if referred for trial whether the charges will be capital for each accused. If the charges are referred for trial by military commission, a military judge will be assigned and a panel of eligible military officers will be selected as potential members (jurors) of the military commission. The accused must then be arraigned within 30 days of the service of the referred charges. An arraignment is the initial hearing in the case, where the charges are formally read to the accused and the accused is called upon to enter pleas to the charges. At the arraignment the judge will likely issue a trial schedule. We will continue to provide updates for significant developments in the case as they occur.

Although we are not able to give you a more precise answer on when to expect a decision by the Convening Authority, we will continue to provide updates.

Witness Interviews

While the prosecution team awaits a decision by the Convening Authority, we continue to diligently prepare the case for trial. In June of this year, we sent an email and asked all New York, New Jersey, California and Massachusetts families if they were interested in being interviewed as potential witnesses. We focused initially on these locations because of the high concentration of family members in these areas as well as the presence of other witnesses that we needed to meet with who will testify regarding different aspects of the case. Many thanks to those of you who agreed to meet with us. It was productive, helpful and humbling to spend time with you. We had a very large response, so please dont worry if we have not arranged a meeting with you at this point. We are in the process of planning additional trips to these areas in the coming months. Likewise, we would like to ask those of you from other areas if you would like to be interviewed. If interested, we will coordinate with you as well to set up an interview.

If you have already emailed me expressing your interest, there is no need for you to do so again. Regardless of where you live, let us know if you would like to meet with us. Negative responses are not required. Please send the response to the following email: karenL2@ptf.gov.

Finally, and not least, I want to express to you our continuing support. You constantly amaze us with your resiliency, strength, and courage. You and your families are always in our thoughts as we continue to work on this case.


Karen Loftus


Director, Victim Witness and CCTV Programs

Office of Military Commissions

karenL2@ptf.gov; 571-204-5580

karen.loftus@osd.mil (blackberry)
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