Moussaoui, Shoe Bomber Link Called 'Highly Unlikely' by FBI
Friday, April 21, 2006
The FBI has no evidence to support Zacarias Moussaoui's testimony that "shoe bomber" Richard Reid was to be part of his mission to fly a hijacked airplane into the White House on Sept. 11, 2001, according to a document made public yesterday at Moussaoui's death penalty trial.
When he took the witness stand, Moussaoui told jurors that top al-Qaeda officials had instructed him to attack the White House and said Reid was to be part of his crew. Moussaoui's lawyers have told the jury that he was exaggerating his role, whereas prosecutors have said he was telling the truth.
But two analysts for the FBI, which is the prosecution's investigative arm, believe it is "highly unlikely" that Reid was slated to be involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, which destroyed the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon. Their opinion was in a stipulation, agreed upon by the defense and prosecution, that was read into the court record yesterday by Moussaoui's lawyers. It was presented to the jury as fact and was intended to tell jurors what Reid would have said had he testified.
"To date, there is no information available to indicate that Richard Reid had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks or was instructed by al-Qaeda leadership to conduct an operation in coordination with Moussaoui," the document said. It noted that Reid was traveling from Israel to Amsterdam between May and September 2001, a time when Moussaoui was in the United States taking flying lessons. Reid's own attack, in which he tried to blow up a jetliner with a bomb hidden in his shoe, did not take place until December 2001.
It was unclear how the FBI's analysis would resonate with jurors and whether it would raise questions about the truthfulness of Moussaoui's testimony. Jurors will start deliberating Monday whether Moussaoui should be executed or sentenced to life in prison. Testimony in the seven-week trial ended late yesterday, and closing arguments are scheduled for Monday morning in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. Moussaoui, 37, pleaded guilty last year to conspiring with al-Qaeda in the Sept. 11 attacks.
When Moussaoui testified for the second time last week, prosecutors appeared to be trying to blunt the impact of Reid's possible testimony. After Moussaoui said he and Reid were good friends, prosecutors asked him whether they ever discussed the Sept. 11 attacks. "Never," Moussaoui said, adding that a senior al-Qaeda official had told him: "Reid was part of the team. I was in charge; he was my second. He did not have a single clue about the operation. . . . They told me not to say anything to him."
In a trial filled with role reversals, Moussaoui's lawyers are in the odd position of trying to discredit their client, who doesn't speak to them and who, according to some legal experts, may want to die to become a martyr. A key part of their argument has been that Moussaoui is mentally ill and prone to delusions that aggrandized his role in the Sept. 11 plot and in Osama bin Laden's organization.
To make that point, they tried to call Reid to the stand, but their efforts were rebuffed by the judge. Reid is serving a life sentence in prison for the attempted shoe bombing.
An FBI spokesman, Richard Kolko, would not comment beyond the stipulation. Prosecutors declined to comment.
The document was made public on a day in which defense lawyers rested their case after again calling to the stand relatives of people killed in the Sept. 11 attacks, who testified for the defense in its efforts to have Moussaoui's life spared. The witnesses, barred from speaking for or against execution in court, provided remembrances of their loved ones in what amounted to a series of moving memorials about how they lived rather than how they died.
Prosecutors then presented a brief rebuttal case that focused on a subject that has played a central role since Moussaoui was charged in December 2001: his mental health. Moussaoui has long been known for his animated behavior in court, though he has limited his outbursts during the trial to moments when the judge and jury are gone. Yesterday, he screamed during a morning break: "God curse America!"
A clinical psychologist testified for the defense earlier this week that Moussaoui has paranoid schizophrenia and is delusional. Prosecutors yesterday presented their own expert, psychiatrist Raymond F. Patterson, who said Moussaoui has a "personality disorder" but "there is no evidence from my perspective that he exhibits any schizophrenia or mental illness." Unlike the defense expert, who never spoke with Moussaoui beyond a brief conversation in his cell, Patterson interviewed him once in 2002 and twice in 2005.
Patterson said much of the perception that Moussaoui is mentally ill is based on what are actually cultural differences. For instance, he said that when Moussaoui appears to be mumbling in court, he is praying, which is common for Muslims who are devoted to religious study. He said Moussaoui's Alexandria jail cell contained religious texts, including the Koran and the Bible.
Patterson, who billed the government $450 an hour, or $91,000 overall, said Moussaoui's harsh words in court and more than 270 blistering, handwritten motions he filed from jail -- in which he insulted prosecutors, the judge and his lawyers -- are all part of what he sees as his war against America. "Making his message known by pen and by word is a part of his war," Patterson said.
Under cross-examination by the defense, Patterson acknowledged that his license to practice in Virginia expired in 1998, though he had testified under oath that it is current and he has worked in Virginia on the Moussaoui case since 2002. Prosecutors pointed out that he is licensed in Maryland and the District, where his practice is based.
Earlier, the jury heard testimony from several family members of people who died aboard United Airlines Flight 93, one of the four planes hijacked on Sept. 11. Passengers engaged in a furious struggle to retake the plane before the hijackers crashed it into a Pennsylvania field.
Jennifer Glick, sister of passenger Jeremy Glick, described how the family has preserved his memory by setting up a program, "Jeremy's Heroes," to aid young people in physical education in the United States and abroad.
Alice Hoaglan, who testified about the loss of her son, Flight 93 passenger Mark Bingham, said outside the courthouse that she had listened, heartbroken, to the more than three dozen Sept. 11 family members who spoke on behalf of the prosecution but was pleased that the defense invited her to testify.
Asked whether she felt Moussaoui should be executed, she said: "Zacarias Moussaoui is clearly a despicable man, but none of us is beyond redemption.''