Zacarias MoussaouiCall him the little hijacker who couldn't. Zacarias Moussaoui is the Barney Fife of al Qaeda — inept and bumbling. If he wasn't so rabid and bloodthirsty, he'd be good for comic relief. Oh, hell, he's still good for comic relief.
A Moroccan born in France in 1968, Moussaoui is kind of a terrorist roadie, a loser who somehow managed to attach himself to people with talent, rewarded for his dog-like loyalty by being assigned a series of menial tasks. It's just one of life's little ironies that Moussaoui has landed in the middle of the show-trial of the century.
Little is known of Moussaoui's early history. He grew up in the U.K. and went to college there. According to his indictment, he holds a master's degree, a fact which is a bit baffling when you look at his behavior.
The government's indictment of Moussaoui highlights his general worthlessness. The 31-page indictment deals primarily with al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and the September 11 attack, and has very little to say about the only defendant in the case, Moussaoui himself. This is a rather sharp contrast from the hundreds of pages of charges against other terrorism defendants, in indictments usually replete with detailed accusations (whether or not they can actually be proven). Moussaoui's indictment contains such explosive allegations as: "In or about March 2001, ZACARIAS MOUSSAOUI joined a gym in Norman, Oklahoma." What a bastard!
A late bloomer, Moussaoui took the traditional terrorist route in 1998 with a trip to Afghanistan, where for more than a decade, bin Laden's suicide factories mass-produced homicidal lunatics by the gross. In 2000, Moussaoui traveled to Malaysia, where he is accused of having met with al Qaeda operatives, who provided him with money and travel documents.
Moussaoui came to the U.S. in 2001, and enrolled in a flight school in Norman, Oklahoma. He was a poor student and dropped out before his by-no-means-certain graduation. His visa expired in May, a fact to which he was seemingly oblivious. He finally found another flight school in Minnesota, and traveled there in August.
Moussaoui received tens of thousands of dollars from al Qaeda commanders to fund whatever the hell they thought it was he was doing. He paid cash for his Minnesota flying lessons, and told his instructors he had no interest in learning how to take off or land, only steer. His erratic behavior led school officials to contact the FBI, which arrested in mid-August.
But the FBI's headquarters brushed the case off as insignificant and threw legal hurdles in front of the field agents who were barred even from looking at Moussaoui's laptop computer — which contained unimportant trivia like the names and phone numbers of al Qaeda commanders and September 11 hijackers.
While Moussaoui cooled his heels in a prison cell, his pals pulled off the single biggest terrorist attack of all time, hijacking four jets and crashing three of them into the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon. While most investigators agree the leads probably wouldn't have been enough to stop September 11 from happening, they might very well have prevented at least one of the hijackings.
The real fun in the Moussaoui case didn't start until after the government decided to make an example of him, filing the only U.S. charges to date directly connected to the 9/11 attacks and seeking the death penalty for Moussaoui, who didn't actually succeed in doing anything.
Moussaoui decided to represent himself. And "fool for a client" doesn't even begin to cover what happened next. The "20th hijacker" has distinguished himself as a legal scholar by innovating several new and exciting legal arguments. Highlights of his jurisprudence include:
It's unclear what the future holds for Zacarias Moussaoui. For a raving lunatic, he seems to be doing a pretty good job of humiliating John Ashcroft's Justice Department.
His request to subpoena such high-ranking al Qaeda leaders such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Abu Zubayda was actually deemed credible enough to cause the entire trial to grind to a halt, when the government refused to pull the bamboo shoots out of the witnesses fingernails so they could testify.
Even if this technical hurdle is somehow overcome, there's the pesky fact that Moussaoui was too incompetent to actually commit a capital crime, despite his best efforts.
If nothing else, Moussaoui will leave a legalistic legacy for posterity. Someday in the far-flung future, some criminal defendent will wiggle out from a death penalty charge by citing the precdent set in "US v. Moussaoui" and demanding a judge honor his "Motion to see what the Scam is about."
Just one more thing to blame Osama bin Laden for...