WASHINGTON – A federal judge has selected six sites for survivors and relatives of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to watch the death penalty phase in the case against Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged in the United States in the 2001 assaults on Washington and New York.
The proceedings will be broadcast via closed-circuit television to federal courthouses in Manhattan and Long Island, N.Y.; Newark, N.J.; Philadelphia; Boston and Alexandria, Va., U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said in an order Tuesday.
The selection of the sites is the latest development in the case against Moussaoui, 37, who pleaded guilty in April to being part of a broad, radical Islamist conspiracy to fly planes into U.S. buildings.
Brinkema also ordered prosecutors to give Moussaoui's defense team the classified version of a report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine, who investigated the FBI's handling of intelligence about Al Qaeda and terrorism before the 9/11 attacks.
A redacted, or heavily censored, version of the report was made public in June and concluded that the FBI had missed chances to detect some of the 19 hijackers before the attacks.
The latest court filings also indicate that the case's judge and lawyers are continuing to struggle to find ways to summarize classified evidence from detained Al Qaeda operatives and present it to the jury. Brinkema gave defense attorneys an extra week, until Dec. 7, to file descriptions of the evidence they believe the captives could provide to bolster Moussaoui's defense.
The judge plans to meet with prosecutors in a closed hearing Monday to discuss classified evidence.
The Justice Department is seeking the death penalty against Moussaoui, who has pleaded guilty to six conspiracy charges.
Prosecutors intend to argue that the FBI might have been able to thwart the 9/11 hijacking plot if Moussaoui had told agents he was in the United States taking flight lessons as part of his training for a second wave of Al Qaeda attacks.
Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, said in April that he should not be sentenced to death because he was "not 9/11 material" and that the hijacking of four commercial jets on Sept. 11, 2001, was "not my conspiracy." He was in jail in Minnesota for immigration violations when the four planes were crashed in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon.
Instead, Moussaoui said, he was part of another plot to fly a jet into the White House if the U.S. government refused to free Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, known as "the Blind Sheikh."
Rahman is an Egyptian cleric who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for crimes related to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and 1995 plots against New York landmarks.
Jury selection is to begin in Moussaoui's case in February in Alexandria. It has been delayed several times as prosecutors and defense attorneys struggled with an enormous amount of classified evidence and have fought over whether Moussaoui should have access to captured, high-ranking Al Qaeda leaders who he says can exonerate him of involvement in the 9/11 plot.