Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, often described as the mastermind of 9/11, and four other prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay told a military judge on Monday that they wish to plead guilty to all charges.
Law professor Jonathan Turley sees this confession as a "strange alliance" between Mohammed and George W. Bush, where both men get what they want -- martyrdom in Mohammed's case and vindication in Bush's -- and President-elect Barack Obama is stuck in the middle with a dilemma on his hands.
Mohammed and the other accused terrorists first announced their plan to confess on November 4, which -- as MSNBC's Rachel Maddow pointed out in introducing Turley -- was "the day America elected a president who is expected to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and is expected to close the military tribunal system."
"Could it be that they want to beat the clock?" Maddow asked. "They want to make sure they are convicted, and probably executed, under Bush's tribunal system because that feels more like martyrdom to them than risking going into an actual non-kangaroo court trial in a real legal system?"
"What Khalid Sheikh Mohammed just did is to hand George Bush a considerable victory," Turley replied. "We were very close in his case to addressing the fact that he was tortured and ... that his case was put in the spotlight on the gross unfairness of the Bush tribunal system. And he essentially took all that off the table and saved the Bush administration the need to answer to those charges."
"So the result is rather strange for a mastermind," Turley continued. "He's probably a certifiable moron, because what he's doing is he's shifting this over to the death penalty question. He's not likely to be executed under George Bush. The person that most supports what he did is likely George Bush and you have the strange alliance between Sheikh Mohammed and George W. Bush and Barack Obama is the guy in the middle."
Turley believes that Mohammed's guilty plea will be accepted but that because death penalty hearings take time, "it's unlikely that he would be sentenced -- and certainly very unlikely to be executed -- before there is a President Obama in the White House.
"But then [Obama's] going to have a dilemma," Turley explained, "because at that point he would have to execute someone under the Bush tribunal system. The alternative, if [Mohammed] isn't sentenced at that point -- and the one that I think President Obama should do -- would be to force him into the federal court, have him reindicted ... and have him sentenced under a real court and a real judge."
Turley concluded, however, that ultimately Mohammed will probably get the death penalty he's seeking, because "it's likely that if he wants to be a martyr, he's going to find a lot of people who want to help him along."