President Biden rejected a potential Department of Defense plea deal that would have excused 9/11 architects and co-conspirators from potentially facing the death penalty, according to an announcement Wednesday.
The decision comes just days before the 22nd anniversary of the terrorist attacks which took the lives of nearly 3,000 people.
“The administration declines to accept the terms of the proposed joint policy principles offered by the accused in the military commissions case, United States v. Mohammed, et al,” prosecutors said in the filing, according to The New York Times. The filing is not on the Pentagon’s war court website yet.
According to the Times, military prosecutors extended an offer in March 2022, proposing to spare them from death sentences and instead serve life sentences if they confessed to their purported hijacking roles.
The conditions the prisoners wanted DOD to accept included a guarantee they wouldn’t serve their sentences in solitary confinement and allowing them to eat and pray with other prisoners in Guantánamo Bay. The prisoners also wanted a civilian-run program to treat brain disorders, sleep disorders, and gastrointestinal damage they say the CIA caused during interrogations prior to being transferred to Guantánamo Bay in 2006, according to the Times
Officials noted that the offer still stands, but President Biden’s rejection of further conditions reduces the chances of reaching an agreement.
Brett Eagleson, son of 9/11 victim Bruce Eagleson and president of grassroots organization Justice 911, told Fox News Digital in an interview Wednesday the decision may be a “sign of cooperation from the [Biden] administration.”
“Hopefully this is signaling from them that they’re finally hearing us, and they’re ready, willing and able to work with us to close this chapter, and bring accountability and justice to the 9/11 community,” Eagleson said.
Brett’s father worked for Westfield Management Corp. on the 17th floor of the south tower that was struck at approximately 9:03 a.m. by the second hijacked plane on Sept. 11, 2001.
Last month, Sen. Ted Cruz, R.-Texas, and Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R.-N.Y., sent a letter to Secretary of State Lloyd Austin calling a potential plea deal “completely unacceptable,” adding it would rob victims’ families of a “full measure of justice.”
Cruz said in a statement Wednesday to Fox News Digital, “I pressed the Department of Defense and urged the administration to support the death penalty for these monsters.”
“The victims of those attacks have been patiently awaiting justice for over 20 years, and the Biden administration should not be standing in the way of that. Today, the Biden administration took a step in the right direction by rejecting the defendants’ plea deal, and I hope we can move forward and try the murderers. I, along with millions of Americans, believe justice requires the ultimate punishment for their horrific crimes,” the statement said.
Cruz and Malliotakis joined Rep. Mike Lawler, R.-N.Y., House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and Rep. Pat Ryan, D-N.Y., who also sent a letter to the Biden administration last month criticizing the possible plea deal.
Outrage over the so-called plea deal began when some victims’ families received a letter Aug. 1 from the Pentagon informing them the federal government may consider a plea deal for “principal architect” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-conspirators seeking to avoid the death penalty. Fox News Digital received a copy of the letter, which was first obtained by The Associated Press.
In response, more than 2,000 family members of those killed in the 9/11 attacks fired back in a letter, saying if there were no trial, the result would be that the information “provided to his [Mohammed] legal team — information that no doubt would shed light on the identity of the 9/11 conspirators — [would remain] secret and hidden not only from the 9/11 Families but from the American public.”
The negotiations, which began more than a year ago and have not concluded, come amid allegations al Qaeda prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay endured torture, including waterboarding, at the hands of the CIA. These allegations have raised concerns about the potential impact on prosecutors’ cases.
Jamie Joseph is a writer who covers politics. She leads Fox News Digital coverage of the Senate.