Lessons From the Moussaoui Trial
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Lessons From the Moussaoui Trial
National Public Radio (NPR); Talk of the Nation 2:00 PM EST
By: Neal Conan
Broadcast: April 5, 2006


 

NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington.

A jury returns to a federal courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia, tomorrow, to consider a sentence of death for confessed 9-11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. In the first phase of the sentencing trial, the court heard three weeks of testimony and reviewed dozens of documents that disclosed new information, a lot of it about two organizations: al-Qaida and the FBI.

That included a statement from the man who planned the attacks of 9-11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, and embarrassing revelations about bureaucratic inertia at FBI Headquarters that blocked a search of Moussaoui's apartment and computer until it was too late.

A lawyer also committed an egregious error that might have torpedoed the government's case until Moussaoui undermined his own defense with a startling claim that he was supposed to fly a hijacked airliner into the White House that day.

Later on in the program, our weekly visit with Political Junkie, Ken Rudin. If you have questions about politics this week, Tom DeLay, Cynthia McKinney, the immigration bill, anti-war referenda in Wisconsin, you can e-mail us now. The address is talk@npr.org.

But first, what have we learned from the Moussaoui trial? If you have questions about what happened before the attack, al-Qaida planning, and the stalled FBI investigation, or about the conduct of the case in court, give us a call. Our number is 800-989-8255, that's 800-989-TALK.

And we begin with former Democratic Congressman Timothy Roemer, who was a member of the 9-11 Commission. He joins us today from Dulles Airport in Virginia where he's waiting to get on a plane. Congressman, thanks very much for taking the time to be with us today.

Mr. TIMOTHY ROEMER (Former Democratic Congressman, Indiana): Neal, my pleasure.

CONAN: What have we learned that's new, do you think?

Mr. ROEMER: Well, first of all, I want to just say that, as this trial goes on, I hope we bring some kind of resolution forward for the families, Neal. I've worked with them for the past three and a half years. Many still in great pain and hopefully this trial brings some kind of relief of that pain in the longer term.

What we've learned, Neal, it's been a three-ring circus, showing that the United States too oftentimes is resistant to change and building bureaucracies that are more likely to fight the Cold War than to take on a dynamic, changing, entrepreneurial, and nimble al-Qaida threat.

We learned from testimony from FBI's own agents that too oftentimes they picked up clues, they sensed that something was terribly wrong with Moussaoui, they saw that he was a religious extremist, and they couldn't communicate with the appropriate people in headquarters. This is just more of the same and shows us, as many things in the news these days do, Neal, whether it was Katrina showing that we're not ready for first-responders communicating, the border debate on immigration showing our border is still porous, the port debate, where the Dubai Ports World showed that we still haven't adequately set up screening for our containers coming into this country, and finally, Don Rumsfeld said to a questioner at the War College last week, he thought the government was getting a D, D as in Dog, at winning the hearts and minds in the world.

So it reminds us, Neal, that we need to change. We need to pass the rest of the 9-11 recommendations. There are 20 out there, dealing with information sharing, first-responders, change of Congress, and we have plenty of work to go here, and miles to go before the country's adequately safer.

CONAN: Well let me ask you, for a moment, about al-Qaida. There was an extraordinary two-page statement from Khalid Sheikh Mohammad that he wrote, and in addition, a precis of--a longer precis of what the FBI--the CIA has learned from interrogating him.

But in one quote, Sheikh Mohammad says, "I know the materialistic western mind cannot grasp the idea, and it's difficult for them to believe that the high officials in al-Qaida do not know about operations carried out by its operatives. But this is how it works. We do not submit written reports to higher-ups. I conducted the September the 11th operation by submitting only oral reports."

Mr. ROEMER: What the trial continued to show us, and what's evident in the 9-11 Commission report, Neal, is that al-Qaida is very nimble and agile. They can plug in new people at times, they can communicate with their cells and not risk sharing information outside the confines and the secrecy of that cell, they can adopt their plans as they move forward. Remember, you just quoted Khalid Sheikh Mohammad; he was the one in 1998 that took the planes operation to Osama bin Laden. It was ten planes, not five, at that time. They had a dialogue, and they talked in detail about making it simpler; five planes on the east coast, not the ten planes that might go to the east and the west coasts.

The Moussaoui situation, we thought on the 9-11 Commission report, that they were probably priming Moussaoui as a possible pilot. They were very worried about one of the pilots that was dropping out, they thought, in late July. He took a one-way trip on a plane from the United States to see his girlfriend in Germany. He'd always taken round trip tickets, and al-Qaida was very worried that they'd lost this pilot and they started looking for somebody that might be able to get trained quickly enough to move into that pilot role.

CONAN: Yet, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad said Mr. Moussaoui was not exactly considered the most reliable person either. He said in court, in that astonishing testimony, that he was supposed to fly a fifth plane on 9-11, into the White House.

Do you believe him?

Mr. ROEMER: Neal, I think that what we have concluded is that Moussaoui is an al-Qaida mistake, and that we, in the United States government, had missed opportunities to take advantage of that mistake.

There is no doubt that Moussaoui is, and the al-Qaida recognized that he is, a bit strange, a bit unpredictable, and volatile. And the FBI agent in Minnesota found that out right away when they arrested him. He reacted very violently to questions about religious extremism, and they were very worried about it on the ground.

But they could not communicate that worry to headquarters. They could not appropriately get the FISA application that they needed through, and once again, we have a situation where the FBI could not communicate with the headquarters and get sufficient attention to something that they saw was a big concern in the field.

CONAN: Let's bring another voice into the conversation now. This is Harry Skip Brandon, former Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI, with responsibility for National Security and Counter-Terrorism Programs. He's been following the Moussaoui sentencing trial as well.

It's nice to have you here with us in Studio 3-A today.

Mr. HARRY "SKIP" BRANDON (Former Deputy Assistant Director, Counter- Intelligence division, FBI): Well, thank you.

CONAN: I wonder, would you agree? I mean, some of this testimony about the efforts of this agent, Mr. Samit, in Minnesota, to try to get the attention of FBI Headquarters, you can hear him banging his head against the wall.

Mr. BRANDON: Well, I think it's very clear this is not the FBI's best moment.

The problem is I think we've only heard, kind of, half of that story. We've heard the story from the frustration evident in the field office. There's always some tension between the field and Headquarters. One of the things that we have not heard is what happened at the Department of Justice.

An FBI agent doesn't just go to the FISA court on his own or her own and make an application. The Department of Justice has always, since the start of FISA and the FISA court, shown concern over the fact that this is, in a way, a secret court. And, the concern was manifested by the fact that they were very, very demanding, properly so, in terms of the strengths of the affidavits that would go forward to the FISA court.

CONAN: Well one of the things we heard in this testimony was, in fact, that the supervisor in Washington was unwilling to approach the FISA court because an associate or somebody else in the bureau had been, you know, reprimanded by the FISA court, why are you bringing us this?

Mr. BRANDON: Yeah.

CONAN: And he thought it would be bad for his career. Preventing terrorism, bad for your career? Which way do you go?

Mr. BRANDON: Well, clearly, with hindsight, you see this. There's no question about this. Unfortunately, government agencies tend to bang people down enough that they do become fearful. But I'm not sure that that's the full answer. And I'm not trying to say the Department of Justice was the problem; but for years their requirements, in the FISA court in particular, in involving individuals, were extraordinarily rigorous. And many, many times agents would come back from a meeting with the Department of Justice saying they want more, they want more, they want more.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Let's get a listener involved in the conversation. If you'd like to join us, by the way, 800-989-8255; or e-mail us: TALK@NPR.org. This is Caroline. Caroline's calling us from Anchorage, Alaska.

CAROLINE (Caller): Yes, good morning. I wanted to ask a question as to whether or not--this is something I'd heard, but only once: That the predecessor for Ashcroft had been very open to reviewing requests for subpoenas. And in this case, it was a subpoenas for the computer that came out of the Minneapolis, I think it was, office. And that Ashcroft did not have the same open door policy. In fact, he strongly discouraged being bothered about those kinds of things.

CONAN: Congressman Roemer, she's of course referring to former Attorney General John Ashcroft. And what do you think about that?

Mr. ROEMER: Well, I can speak to Caroline's question a bit, Neal, in my terms of my experience on the Intelligence Committee, and how cooperative or non- cooperative the FISA courts were with us in trying to appeal for FISAs. I believe it was very, very cooperative; that the turnaround time was usually pretty swift and that in the course of many, many applications for FISA requests, when they're done right, there were probably less than 10 turned down out of more than 15,000 that were asked for.

CONAN: That's certainly, Mr. Brandon, what we heard in the wireless wiretap hearings. Only a handful of subpoenas were turned down in dozens of years.

CAROLINE: Hello, sir?

Mr. BRANDON: I think the congressman would agree with me that one of the reasons was that they were very, very carefully prepared. This court was not viewed as any sort of a rubberstamp operation.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Okay, Congressman Roemer, do you think Mr. Ashcroft was reluctant?

Mr. ROEMER: I don't know if he was or not, Neal. I don't know if we can answer that question about whether it got to his level. I know on the FISA issue, which is a bit different from the Moussaoui questions that we're asking today...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. ROEMER: ...that the Congress has asked former justice, Attorney General John Ashcroft, to testify before the Congress and talk about this FISA issue and to see if we can look for a legislative fix in terms of this very, very difficult question of using this technology, the wiretapping technology, in a legal and appropriate way and still go after al-Qaida aggressively.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. ROEMER: I think the two can be hammered out. I think we need to go after this technology and make sure that we're listening in to al-Qaida, if they're listening to or communicating with people in America, but I think you need to go to Congress to get the right fix for this.

CONAN: Caroline, thank you very much for the call. And, Congressman Roemer, we know you've got a plane to catch. We appreciate your time today. Happy flying.

Mr. ROEMER: Thank you very much, Neal.

CONAN: Former Democrat Congressman from Indiana, Tim Roemer, member of the 9/11 Commission. We'll have more after a short break. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION; I'm Neil Conan in Washington. Earlier this week, a jury decided that confessed 09/11 conspirator, Zacarias Moussaoui, is eligible for the death penalty. His sentencing trial also revealed organizational flaws at the FBI and a lot about al-Qaida's planning for the attacks on 9/11. Today we're talking about what we've learned from the Moussaoui trial, about the FBI, and about al-Qaida and about court proceedings in this extraordinary case.

Of course, you're invited to join the conversation. Our number is 800-989-8255, that's 800-989-TALK. The e-mail address is TALK@NPR.org. With us is Harry Brandon, former deputy assistant director in the FBI's Counter-Intelligence Division.

And let me introduce another voice now. And this is Stephen Saltzburg, a law professor at George Washington University Law School. He's been following the Moussaoui trial. He's also with us here in Studio 3-A; very good for you to join us today, sir.

Professor STEPHEN SALTZBURG (Law Professor, George Washington University Law School): I'm glad to be here.

CONAN: Would this been a difficult case for the government to prove without Mr. Moussaoui's extraordinary testimony? You hesitate to use the phrase, in his own defense?

Prof. SALTZBURG: I'm not sure that the jury would've rendered the same verdict had Moussaoui not testified. It was a very difficult case. Skip and I were talking about it before we came on the air. And we both agreed, I think, that the government witnesses badly hurt the government's claim that but for Moussaoui's lies, that at least one death was prevented.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Prof. SALTZBURG: It was hardly clear that the jury would have found that without Moussaoui getting up there and saying: I did it.

CONAN: And then there was the case of misconduct by a government lawyer, not one trying the case, but associated with the government for coaching witnesses.

Prof. SALTZBURG: That was extraordinary. You know, that lawyers understand that gag orders are in effect in criminal trials and they usually take pains to make sure they comply. What was especially egregious about this is, that that lawyer appeared to have been in contact with the airline counsel...

CONAN: Mm hmmm.

Prof. SALTZBURG: ...who were defending the airlines in civil litigation and they appeared to be trying to get her to influence the witness testimony to help the airlines in civil litigation.

CONAN: And some of these, and coaching any witness is bad, but she was trying to coach defense witnesses as well as prosecution witnesses.

Prof. SALTZBURG: Exactly.

CONAN: This is exceptional. There is also something else that is unusual about this trial: that the death penalty could be applied in a case where the defendant did not commit an act. In its summation, the prosecution said it was as if Mr. Moussaoui was at the controls of one of those planes, yet all he did was not tell the FBI something.

Prof. SALTZBURG: It's an extraordinary case. I don't know of another death penalty case in America where the claim is made that it was the failure to do something that actually justifies the death penalty. And indeed, it's not really quite that because the claim is it's not just his failure to speak, it's that he lied; and, therefore, he misled the FBI. And had he told the truth, then the FBI would have caught on to this scheme faster.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Let's get some more listeners on the line, and we'll turn to John. John's with us from Grand Rapids in Michigan.

JOHN (Caller): Hello. I wanted to ask why Coleen Rowly didn't testify in the Moussaoui trial. She wrote that letter, she testified before the commission on 9/11 and another Congressional commission, a Congressional committee. But I wonder why she wasn't testifying on this--in this matter.

CONAN: Stephen Saltzburg, Coleen Rowly, now running for Congress, could that have played a factor in it?

Prof. SALTZBURG: It's, you know, it's hard to know why it is the defense didn't think, didn't want to call her. But, in fact, the answer might be that the government's witnesses helped the defense so much. I mean, they, Agent Samit's testimony was about as good as it was going to get. I'm not sure that Ms. Rally could have added anything.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. There's also the testimony by one of his supervisors who, that read a quotation from one of Mr. Samitz's nemesis, I've never heard that before. Could you tell me about that, thereby revealing that he didn't know it until then. Skip Brandon?

Mr. BRANDON: Yeah, I think, I think given her, Coleen Rowly's position in the office as a legal advisor, that basically any testimony would have been virtually hearsay. What they did was put on the agent who had direct knowledge and that's the person you want testifying.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. And he was though, not the whistleblower that Coleen Rowly was?

Mr. BRANDON: No, no, but the issue was not whistle blowing, the issue was...

CONAN: Sure.

Mr. BRANDON: ...illegal...

CONAN: Who had interviewed Mr. Moussaoui...

Mr. BRANDON: Illegal proceedings, yeah.

CONAN: John, thank you.

JOHN: Thank you.

CONAN: Okay, let's turn now to...this is Gary; Gary's with us from Buffalo, New York.

GARY (Caller): Yeah, my comment is basically on how you said al-Qaida is very nimble and they can make their decisions and whatever. But they're united under one single cause, you know, to get Americans. And, you know, that is an easy to unite under and make their decisions, whereas we've got the bureaucracy that comes up and, you know, they're weighing highs and causalities in a war that we may or may not be able to handle or should be engaged in. And we just got too many questions, so we can't move unless we strip it out and say, yes, let the military run whatever they have to do.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Well, Harry Brandon, al-Qaida has more targets than just the United States, nevertheless, they...

Mr. BRANDON: Clearly.

CONAN: ...certainly seem to have the initiative here.

Mr. BRANDON: Clearly. To some degree it does appear that they have the initiative. In fact, I think you could say they do have. The caller did point out something, but I think it's important to remember that we are a nation of laws, we are a nation of proper procedures and al-Qaeda is not bound by that. So they can just decide to do something and regardless of any restrictions or laws, they can do it. Our agencies do have to pay attention to that in what they do to respond or to get ahead of them.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Gary?

GARY: Yeah but we'll always be behind because of that. They can react so much faster.

CONAN: Yeah, it's always difficult, you're trying to defend everything and they're trying to attack one thing.

Mr. BRANDON: One thing and it's a real challenge. The other part of it is that al-Qaida is, in a strange way, you have to have a lot of respect for them, because they're decentralized, they've given decision-making authority out to these various, almost franchises that they operate now.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. BRANDON: And it makes it very difficult to approach that; it's not impossible, but it is a serious challenge.

CONAN: It's also, excuse me, Gary, for butting in here, but one of the strengths of American intelligence is intercepting electronic communications...

Mr. BRANDON: Absolutely.

CONAN: ...of various sorts. And what you hear from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is, we didn't text message this...

Mr. BRANDON: Yeah.

CONAN: ...we didn't use cell phones or satellite phones, all these conversations were in person.

GARY: Yeah, but even every warning that went down that people were made aware of was questioned. You know, how valid is it, how whatever...

Mr. BRANDON: Yeah.

GARY: ...you know, everything was filtered...

CONAN: Well...

GARY: ...whereas al-Qaeda can say, go drive some planes, hit a building, fine.

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. BRANDON: Yeah, I think what we have to hope, and I know that a lot of this is true is, that after 9/11, there have been changes in the law, changes in the procedures. We are much more nimble than we were before then, but you raise a very, very valid point, it's a challenge.

CONAN: Let's turn now to David, David's with us on the phone from St. Louis.

DAVID (Caller): Yes, Neal, and guests, I have, I have a strange, I won't say it's a strange theory, but I think that may be a little bit of cultural rift involved here. Most of the reports I've heard kind of suggest that Mr. Moussaoui, when he got up on the stand, you know, committed some kind of blunder by saying all of these things about what he is, he was, his part in all of this was.

And I've, I haven't heard anyone suggest the possibility that he knew exactly what he was doing when he got up on the stand and stated that he was going to be in a fifth aircraft. I'd also suggest this: that if that's the truth and if he was supposed to be on another aircraft with Richard Reid, given that all the other aircraft except one had at least, had five crew members on them.

CONAN: You mean, hijackers, yes.

DAVID: Hijackers, exactly, but and I'm speaking in al-Qaida terms, their crews.

CONAN: Okay.

DAVID: Then that suggests that there are at least two other individuals out there who also would have been on that fifth aircraft, that I've heard nothing about.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Steve Saltzburg, what do you make of that, that idea?

Prof. SALTZBURG: Well I think that the caller is right. I think Moussaoui did exactly what he wanted to do. He made this his show. In fact, when there was an adjournment at one point to take up the issue of whether--the lawyer coaching the witnesses, he was heard to say, the show must go on.

And yet he testified exactly as he wanted. He made himself to be an important person. It was almost as if he was tired of hearing everybody say, he's a buffoon, he was really not reliable, he wasn't a big al-Qaida player; He made himself very important. And I think one of the things you may see, unfortunately, in the second part of this trial when the families come in to testify about the horrors, I believe that Moussaoui will actually show enjoyment.

That this is something he wants, where as most of defendants show remorse, I think this is something that he will again deliberately show his disregard for Americans, his disregard for lives. And he will make this an unpleasant experience for the people who testify.

CONAN: Do you, Skip Brandon, again, as David points out, every other aircraft had four or five hijackers...

Mr. BRANDON: Yeah.

CONAN: ...he said, me and Richard Reid, do you believe him?

Mr. BRANDON: I think in his mind that's what he wanted to do. I will say that it strikes me that what we've seen in the Moussaoui trials is that he clearly was a part of al-Qaida, he received funding that was documented, there's no question about that. The question may come as to whether or not they considered him reliable at the last moment. And it's a very interesting point that were Moussaoui and Richard Reid were going to be a two-man crew in it of themselves. And I don't mean to make light of this at all, but boy that's a real pair, when you think about it. This is not the, we have to say, highly skilled and proficient people who were on the other planes.

CONAN: David, thanks very much for the call.

DAVID: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: All right. Appreciate it. As, again as we look at what's happened so far, and what's going to happen in this case, I wonder, Professor Saltzburg, as you look at this, the next phase, the conventional wisdom that I've heard is it's going to be very difficult for Mr. Moussaoui's defense attorneys, to the degree that he allows them to have some leeway to actually defend him. But it's going to be very difficult for them to do so.

Prof. SALTZBURG: It will be. I mean, he has the choice to testify again. And it would not be a shock to have him get on the witness stand and to say that he enjoyed hearing the testimony; just as he said he was thrilled when he heard that one playback of a call of one of the victims on 9/11. I mean, while this is supposed to be catharsis for the victims, it may turn out to be a very unpleasant experience for us all.

CONAN: And Skip Brandon, as again, we look at al-Qaeda not just that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said, he defied Osama Bin Laden on the timing, and even some of the personnel, he also delegated a lot of this operation to Mohamed Atta, the Amir, the guy who was in charge of the actual attacks, and to another man who helped trained the muscle, the guys who were providing the bulk of the hijackers.

Mr. BRANDON: Yeah. It goes back to the fact that they're a very nimble organization. Although part of that, also, may be that they simply can't communicate with each other effectively. We're using messengers flying around the world. You can't have what we look for, which is classic command and control. You have to, you have to farm it out and let it go. And I think that's what they do and that's what happened.

CONAN: We're talking today about lessons learned from the sentencing trial of Zacarias Moussaoui on Monday; a jury in Alexandria, Virginia returned with a verdict that Mr. Moussaoui is eligible for the death penalty. Tomorrow, in that same courtroom, that jury will begin hearing evidence about whether he actually does deserve the death penalty, himself. We'll wait to see what happens there.

We're talking today with Harry Skip Brandon, former deputy assistant director in the FBI's Counter-Intelligence Division, and with law professor Stephen Saltzburg from George Washington University's Law School.

You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's get a call in from, this is Rob. Rob's calling us from Kansas City.

ROB (Caller): Yes. Hi. Neal and Harry, I hope you can hear me okay.

CONAN: Sure.

ROB: My question is, you know, we tried the millennium bomber and Timothy McVeigh successfully through the American justice system. Why is it that the Bush Administration wants to circumvent and skirt the American legal system; you know, with this Guantanamo Bay and other rendition processes that they're using? I mean how, why is it that we don't have enough faith and trust in our own justice system to successfully try terrorists? I think we will only make our system stronger by doing so, instead of trying to keep them out of the system. I would like to hear a comment from Harry, please.

CONAN: Just also add that Mr. Reid confessed to, he went through the judicial system, as well. But go ahead.

Mr. BRANDON: That is correct. The military system is certainly a legal system; it's a system of law. It's setup to deal with issues affecting national security and affecting servicemen and combatants. I tend to agree with the caller. I think our system does work; we've shown that it works; and I think that probably these people should, for the most part, be in the criminal justice system.

ROB: All right. I thank you very much.

CONAN: Thanks for the call, Rob. And let me ask you, you say that the FBI is now more nimble than it used to be, can you give us examples? I mean, obviously, you know, without violating any kind of security, but...

Mr. BRANDON: Yeah. Well, certainly, with the caveat that I'm not in the FBI anymore.

CONAN: Right.

Mr. BRANDON: But I know that the means and methods of communication with other agencies, both local and federal, is vastly improved. We still aren't where we need to be, but it's much, much better than it was. The FBI's done some restructuring, they've done--which allows them to focus specifically on terrorism. And they've eliminated some of the layers of approval, as it were, so that things can move much more quickly. I don't think it's diminished the thought and care that goes into moving things like a FISA request, but it has eliminated some of the layers of bureaucracy that we had before.

CONAN: Some people would say that before 9/11, the FBI was too reluctant to investigate; that maybe after 9/11, they were, had a little excessive zeal.

Mr. BRANDON: Well I don't whether it's excessive zeal or not, and we can't all say why. But in fact, al-Qaeda hasn't been back. So maybe there have been some, we know there've been successes; this has been mentioned, successes that the government can't talk about. I don't know whether it's excessive; this is a very dangerous time.

CONAN: Not in this country. There've obviously been al-Qaeda attacks elsewhere. And Stephen Saltzburg before we leave the subject, we talked about where the sentencing trial goes from here, but there's still the matter of the lawyer Carla Martin, the Transportation Security Administration lawyer. Where does that stand at this point?

Prof. SALTZBURG: As I understand, the case is being investigated by the United States Attorney's Office in Philadelphia. I think because of the involvements she had with the United States Attorney's Office in Virginia, they thought it appropriate to have an outside look. And I think she's at risk for being prosecuted for obstruction of justice, possible contempt of the judge's order. And I think she's not--she's where she ought to be, which is in trouble for what she did.

CONAN: And as you go ahead with this, do you think that this case it going to set precedent in any important way?

Prof. SALTZBURG: Well, this is the most bizarre case, I think, that you're ever going to see. It's so unusual, in that Moussaoui wanted to represent himself, behaved erratically, the judge went back and forth. We had lots of issues about whether we had to produce Sheikh Mohammed and other witnesses. And...

CONAN: He is being held in a secret CIA prison somewhere.

Prof. SALTZBURG: So I think that, I happen to also agree with the caller that there are also ways to try these cases, to the extent that we want to use the criminal justice system. Now, not all these cases, you know, need to be tried. I mean there's a difference between what we do for intelligence purposes and what we do for criminal justice. But this is because of the sort of unusual nature of this case, I think, we probably haven't learned as much from it; except for the fact that we know that, if you have a defendant like Moussaoui, he can make a circus of even the most ordinary legal proceeding.

CONAN: Thank you, very much, Stephen Saltzburg, law professor at George Washington University Law School here in Washington D.C. Also our thanks to Skip Brandon, Harry Skip Brandon, former Deputy Assistant Director in the FBI's Counter-Intelligence Division; they were kind enough to join us here, today, in Studio 3-A. Appreciate your time.

Mr. BRANDON: Surely.

CONAN: When we come back from a short break, our weekly check-in with resident political junkie Ken Rudin; if you have questions for Ken about Tom DeLay, Cynthia McKinney, about the antiwar referenda on the ballot in Wisconsin, give us a call 800-989-8255. Or send us e-mail questions about those or other political subjects of the week, that's talk@npr.org. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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