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Moussaoui Testifies of Plan to Attack White House


NPR's Laura Sullivan reports on testimony that surprised Moussaoui's own defense team.

LAURA SULLIVAN: His Defense Attorney Gerald Zerkin seemed almost confused. "That's in addition to the planes that struck targets on September 11th?" Moussaoui replied, "I only knew about the two planes to hit the World Trade Center, in addition to our plane." Zerkin stepped back from the podium. He rubbed his head and looked down at his papers. He started to talk, and stopped. He finally asked, "Who were your other members of your crew?" Moussaoui said, almost casually, "Richard Reid." Reid was the would-be shoe bomber convicted of trying to blow up an airliner in-flight, December of 2001.

ANDREW MCBRIDE: That is incredibly powerful. It's devastating. I don't think the defense can recover from it.

SULLIVAN: Andrew McBride is a former federal prosecutor who has tried cases before this judge, and against several of the defense lawyers.

MCBRIDE: Essentially, Moussaoui admitted to that jury that he was a Mohammed Ata. That he was a leader trained to fly a plane, and the only reason he didn't is because he was picked up on immigration charges in August. This is a tremendous day for prosecutors. And I think it vindicates the decision of the United States to go forward with the death penalty.

SULLIVAN: Moussaoui testified that he didn't know the specific date of the attacks. But Moussaoui said he did know they were coming sometime after August, that the Twin Towers were two of the targets, and the plan was to use suicide hijackers with small knives. He said he purposefully concealed all of this so that the plot would go forward--exactly what the prosecution said he did.

MICHAEL GREENBERGER: He gift- wrapped the case once again for the government.

SULLIVAN: University of Maryland law Professor Michael Greenberger worked in the Clinton Justice Department.

GREENBERGER: I think the only hope the defense now has is that they're put in a rather strange position of hoping the jury disbelieves their own client.

SULLIVAN: For the victims' families, none of this was easy.

APRIL GALLOP: He doesn't even care if he hurts people.

SULLIVAN: April Gallop and her son Elijah were seriously injured at the Pentagon. She comes to trial every few days, and still walks with a cane.

GALLOP: Trying to go out as some martyr, and the fact that he's going to get credit for most of it, he probably feels good about himself right now, quite frankly.

SULLIVAN: Laura Sullivan, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Laura Sullivan is an NPR News investigative correspondent whose work has cast a light on some of the country's most significant issues.