Early Saturday morning in a courtroom inside the highly guarded detainee prison at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, five of the alleged top plotters in the Sept. 11 attacks will speak for the first time under a new Obama administration plan to hold them accountable under military tribunals for the worst terrorist strikes in America.
It will be a test for the prisoners, including alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, of whether to plead guilty or not guilty at the arraignment hearing — and whether to use the occasion as a platform to denounce the United States and call for more terrorist attacks around the world.
But in a larger sense the hearing, which kicks off the long-awaited military trial of the so-called Gitmo 5, will be a test of Obama himself, who in 2008 pledged to close the island prison and to try the five defendants in a civilian courtroom setting. He was unsuccessful on both counts. Now, what unfolds in Cuba over the next several months could weigh heavily on the upcoming presidential campaign.