Correction to This Article
The article incorrectly described the status of a subpoena for then-Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.). Weldon had been subpoenaed, but the subpoena was quashed two days before the article was published.
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The Man Who Wasn't There on 9/11

In what legal observers call a first for the U.S. justice system, Moussaoui -- an avowed al-Qaeda member who swore a blood oath to Osama bin Laden -- is being given a public forum. He has said he plans to testify, and sources familiar with the case say his attorneys have no idea what he might say.

The French citizen has already shown he will make the most of the opportunity. He was repeatedly ejected from the courtroom by U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema during jury selection for erupting at his attorneys, the judge and prosecutors. Even when he was allowed back in, he muttered blessings for bin Laden and curses for America after the judge had left.

His behavior will be witnessed by family members of Sept. 11 victims, who are gathering to watch the trial at remote viewing locations at five federal courthouses across the country. If jurors decide that Moussaoui is eligible for the death penalty, a second phase of the trial will feature highly emotional testimony from family members and people injured on Sept. 11.

If Moussaoui's own words could hurt him before the jury, they may have already helped prosecutors make their case. Prosecutors will argue, court documents say, that Moussaoui should die because he allowed the plot to proceed by lying to the FBI and that his deception was a direct cause of the deaths.

When Moussaoui was arrested in Minnesota a month before Sept. 11, he told federal agents that he was training as a pilot for personal enjoyment and that after finishing, he intended to visit New York and Washington as a tourist.

When he pleaded guilty, Moussaoui signed a statement of facts admitting that he had lied to the FBI to allow al-Qaeda "to go forward with the operation to fly planes into American buildings." Prosecutors pointed to this admission in proposed jury instructions they submitted to the judge last week.

Stephen A. Saltzburg, a George Washington University law professor, said the government should be able to prove much of its case. "There is no doubt they can prove that he joined the conspiracy . . . and that he didn't do anything to stop

9/11," Saltsburg said.

Prosecution's Task

The harder part, Saltzburg said, is showing that Moussaoui's lies directly contributed to the murders. In the end, he said, it may depend on how Brinkema instructs the jury on the law. "How is he responsible for Sept. 11 and the deaths on Sept. 11?" Saltzburg said. "It's that last step, the last link."

Prosecutors declined to comment but have indicated in court documents that they do not feel they need to prove that Moussaoui had a specific task on Sept. 11.

"I think no one will ever know," McBride said. "The only people who have an idea are Osama bin Laden and some of his lieutenants."

Moussaoui's intentions have been mysterious ever since his name first emerged in press reports -- he was called Habib Zacarias Moussaoui then -- a few days after Sept. 11.

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