As the U.S. military prepares for the first war crimes trial under President Barack Obama, its most high-profile case against the planners of the Sept. 11 attacks is stuck in political and legal limbo. Canadian prisoner Omar Khadr, accused of killing an American soldier during a raid on an al-Qaida compound, is scheduled to go to trial Aug. 9 at the U.S. base in Cuba.
But Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the professed mastermind of the attacks, and four alleged accomplices are still sequestered at Guantanamo without charges. The Obama administration, after months of review, hasn't made a decision on whether to seek a military or civilian trial.
It's a delay that has angered relatives of Sept. 11 victims. It also has created an unusual situation: Previous war-crimes proceedings, in which Mohammed boasted of his role in the attacks and said he wanted to plead guilty, have essentially been erased. No U.S. officials will say what the plans are for the five men who were transferred in 2006 to Guantanamo from secret CIA custody.
"There's no case, there's no judge, there's nothing," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Richard Federico, a military lawyer appointed to defend alleged plotter Ramzi bin al Shibh. "They are back into the black hole."