Prof. Eric Freedman in Hofstra Chronicle

Professor provides insight into terrorist confessions
By Taylor Paraboschi
The Hofstra Chronicle
December 11, 2008

Five detainees held at Guantánamo Bay who are suspected organizers of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks made a controversial decision on Monday, choosing to fully confess to participating in the attacks.

The decision to confess to their supposed involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks came after numerous private discussions among the five detainees. The self-appointed leader of the group, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed told presiding judge, Col. Stephen Henley, at Guantánamo Bay that he and his fellow “brothers” are planning on dropping all previous legal action and moving towards a full plea and execution.

According to University law professor Eric Freedman confessions like these are not unique. “Oftentimes prisoners will fire their lawyer, drop all of their legal motions and make fully informed, counseled decisions to plead guilty,” said Freedman.

Freedman is a former legal consultant for detainees at Guantánamo Bay whose job was to provide strategic advice to all legal teams. “My job is to attempt to form the best strategies for the group as a whole,” said Freedman.

Freedman added that cases like these demonstrate the problems in these types of trials. “This demonstrates that the entire military concept is a solution in search of a problem.” He went on to add that the cases at Guantánamo Bay are special because of many questions that are still left unanswered, such as whether or not the detainees had proper legal counsel or were fully informed of their rights before making their decisions.

“We don’t know if they are guilty or not,” said Freedman, who added that these particular cases should be transferred out of the military court and into the regular court system. “The tribunal at Guantánamo Bay is tainted,” added Freedman. Cases like the present one are just further proof to Freedman of the “complete bankruptcy to invent a new machine for a system that the current one can do better.”

The detainees decision to plead guilty comes at a crucial time for the United States with the ending of the Bush administration and the beginning of the Obama administration. According to a Dec. 8 New York Times article, the detainees raised suspicion after a few of them said that they would reconsider their statements if execution wasn’t granted.

Former State Department lawyer Vijay Padmanabhan told the New York Times this past Monday that the detainees were using their plea as a way to undermine the government and get what they want. “They are trying to ensure their martyrdom in a manner that continues to attack the credibility of the legal system challenging them,” said Padmanabhan.

By pleading guilty and receiving the death sentence, the five detainees will receive the glory they had intended to receive when they first organized the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Alice Hoagland, whose son was killed in the attacks told the New York Times that she did not think that the five detainees deserved to be treated as a martyrs. “They do not deserve the glory of execution,” said Hoagland.