It’s hard to feel any sympathy for Zacarias Moussaoui, the French national of Moroccan descent who was deemed eligible for the death penalty by a federal jury Monday for his role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on American soil.
The jury must now decide whether it will actually impose the death penalty on him.
As CNN reported, “the jury must unanimously agree that prosecutors proved Moussaoui intentionally lied to federal agents who interrogated him in August 2001, that he lied with lethal intent, and that his lies directly resulted in at least one death in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”
The first two conditions are no-brainers, but the third one is more difficult.
We know Moussaoui did his level best to attack Americans and that he withheld information from the authorities.
But the case revealed a disturbing truth — that the federal government didn’t have its act together enough to have stopped the attacks even if it knew about them in advance.
The government’s case rests on the assertion that had Moussaoui not lied to the FBI, and had told officials what he knew about the 9/11 plot, then they would have jumped into action and prevented the attacks. We’ll never know and Moussaoui’s lies certainly could have contributed to the attacks.
He probably sealed his fate with his declaration at the end of the trial that he knew about the planned attacks and that he was slated to fly a plane into the White House, along with his maniacal denunciations of America throughout the trial.
Still, testimony in the case showed much bureaucratic infighting among FBI offices and between the FBI and the CIA.
The government apparently ignored information from France that Moussaoui had links to terrorists. So the bigger issue for Americans is whether the government was capable of responding effectively, and if not, whether significant-enough changes been made in the bureaucracy to prevent a future attack.
We’ll soon know the answer about Moussaoui’s fate, but it’s unlikely we will get the answer to the last questions anytime soon.