On September 11th 2001, Zacarias Moussaoui was not among the 19 hijackers who passed security before taking off in the planes which would later crash into the Twin Towers. He had been arrested three weeks earlier, on August 16th, charged with violating immigration law. He had arrived in the United States earlier that year – in February, bringing 35,000 dollars with him. He immediately started taking flying lessons in Oklahoma.
Then, in August, Moussaoui signed up at the Pan Am International Flight Academy in Minneapolis, where he took lessons on a Boeing 747 simulator. A teacher noticed his suspicious behaviour and reported him to the FBI, which later arrested him. After repeatedly changing his mind, Moussaoui finally pleaded guilty to the six charges against him in April 2005, but he denied having any knowledge of the wider 9/11 plot.
He claims he was planning a separate attack to fly a plane into the White House. Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, says: “The problem with this trial is that it doesn’t appear that Moussaoui is actually guilty of some of these offences. The general opinion is that he was not the 20th hijacker, in fact intelligence officials have all said that they don’t believe he was the 20th hijacker.”
Other suspects in the September 11th attacks are being kept under wraps by the CIA – men far higher placed in the al Qaeda ranks, including Khalid Cheikh Mohmammed, the alleged brains behind the attacks, and Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, the suspected treasurer.
But they are not being allowed to testify at the trial. Some experts claim Moussaoui is a scapegoat, a desperate attempt by the US judiciary to find at least one culprit to the worst attacks ever committed on American soil.