President Biden rejected a list of proposed conditions sought by the five men who are accused of conspiring in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in exchange for pleading guilty and receiving a maximum punishment of life in prison. An offer by military prosecutors, made in March 2022, that would spare them death sentences if they admitted to their alleged roles in the hijackings, remains on the table. Biden’s decision to reject additional conditions lessens the likelihood of reaching such a deal. The case has been stuck in pretrial proceedings in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for more than a decade, with no trial date set, the New York Times reports. It has been complicated by the CIA's torture of the defendants in their first years of custody, which has raised questions about the admissibility of key evidence prosecutors want to use at trial and the risk of any death sentence being overturned on appeal.
The White House was asked to weigh in on the proposed plea agreement a year and a half ago. In talks with prosecutors, defense lawyers said Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind, and four other defendants wanted certain accommodations, including assurances they would not serve their sentences in solitary confinement and could instead continue to eat and pray communally, as they do now as detainees at Guantánamo Bay. The prisoners sought a civilian-run program to treat sleep disorders, brain injuries, gastrointestinal damage, or other health problems they attribute to the agency’s brutal interrogation methods during their three to four years in CIA custody before their transfer to Guantánamo Bay in 2006. An agreement to meet such conditions for the detainees, potentially for the rest of their lives, carried major policy implications likely beyond the authority of a criminal court or a particular team of prosecutors. A filing on Wednesday, a few days before the 22nd anniversary of the attacks, indicated that the administration had finally said it would not accept the proposed conditions. The court filing does not offer a rationale for rejecting the conditions.