Military prosecutors are in the final phases of preparing the first sweeping case against suspected conspirators for the 9/11 plot that led to the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans on a clear September day and drew the United States into war, people who have been briefed on the case said.
The charges, to be filed in the military commission system at Guantánamo, would involve as many as six detainees held at the detention camp in Cuba, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the former senior aide to Osama bin Laden, who has said he was the principal planner of the plot.
The case would bring new scrutiny to the military commissions, which have had a troubled history and have been criticized as a system designed to win convictions that does not provide the legal protections of American civilian courts.
But it could also begin to fulfill a long-time goal of the Bush administration in trying to establish culpability for the terror attacks of 2001.
Additionally, it would help the administration make its case that some detainees at Guantánamo, where 275 men are now held, would pose a threat if they are not held. Officials have long said that half a dozen men held at Guantánamo played essential roles in the plot directed by Mr. Mohammed, from would-be hijackers to financiers.
War crimes charges against the men would almost certainly place the prosecutors in a battle over the treatment of inmates because at least two detainees tied to the 2001 terror attacks were subject to aggressive interrogation techniques that critics say amounted to torture.
One official who has been briefed on the case said the military prosecutors were considering seeking the death penalty for Mr. Mohammed, although no final decision appears to have been made.
The official added that the military prosecutors had decided to focus on the Sept. 11 attacks in part as an effort to try to establish credibility for the military commission system before a new president takes over next January.
“The thinking was 9/11 is the heart and sole of the whole thing. The thinking was: go for that,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because no one in the government was authorized to speak about the case. Even if the charges are released soon, it would be many months before a trial could be held, lawyers said.
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