Sunday, September 29, 2002

The prosecution in the Moussaoui case wants to be able to play at his trial the tapes of the cockpit conversations of Flight 93. As Moussaoui was not near Flight 93, and almost certainly was not one of the September 11 hijackers, this seems to be a method of providing the jury with prejudicial material that has nothing to do with Moussaoui and has no evidentiary value in his case. Now the prosecution is asserting that a business card found in the wreckage of Flight 93 provides the link between the 19 hijackers and Moussaoui, in that it belonged to the hijacker Ziad Jarrah and had a phone number written on it that Moussaoui had called. The prosecution also says that the cockpit voice recordings are relevant as they identify Jarrah by his voice, which one of Jarrah's classmates at a Florida flight school can identify. I guess the argument is that the seemingly prejudicial and irrelevant voice recordings should be played at Moussaoui's trial because they allow the prosecution to identify Jarrah as being the pilot of Flight 93, and the phone number on the card then ties the hijackers of Flight 93 to Moussaoui. I have some comments:

  1. How can they prove that the card belonged to Jarrah? Actually, the amount of documentary material relating to Jarrah found in the wreckage is starting to get very suspicious. They have apparently found the German work permit of Jarrah's cousin (although why Jarrah would be carrying this has never been explained), a fragment of his passport, and an Arabic-language prayer guide (all this and a phone number scrawled on a business card is a lot to carry for someone who is going to kill himself). All this material was found despite the fact that the wreckage was scattered over a large area, and the flight was probably blown out of the sky, either by a U. S. fighter jet or by a bomb which the hijackers brought onto the plane (the continued failure of the U. S. government to confirm or deny whether a U. S. fighter took down Flight 93 may relate to the fact that they don't want to provide evidence to anyone who might want to sue the airline and the airport security if a bomb was brought on the plane).

  2. The identification of Jarrah based on the testimony of someone who last heard his voice six months before and who has to compare his memory of it to a confused and low quality and possibly damaged cockpit recording isn't going to stand up to proper cross-examination.

  3. It is interesting that the prosecution is now taking the position that they have to produce a witness to prove that Jarrah was on Flight 93. This has been an accepted fact up until now, doubted only by a few nuts on the internet.

  4. In fact, the original Ziad Jarrah from Lebanon, who became a student in Germany and later studied flying in Florida, is almost certainly not the man who piloted Flight 93. We know that someone calling himself 'Ziah Jarrah' was in Dubai at the same time the original Ziad Jarrah was studying flying in Florida. The personality of the original Ziad Jarrah was also as far from religious fundamentalist as you could imagine. It is fairly obvious that the identity of the original Ziad Jarrah was stolen and used by some operative who called himself 'Ziad Jarrah' and left a paper trail through the United States and onto Flight 93. Since the Jarrah who studied flying in Florida was the original Jarrah, I wonder about any evidence that purports to identify the pilot of Flight 93 based on a recollection of how the Jarrah who studied in Florida sounded.

  5. Even if the prosecution managed to prove all it wants to prove, all the phone number on the card could possibly demonstrate is that Moussaoui and Jarrah may have had a common acquaintance. If that is the best evidence that the prosecution has to implicate Moussaoui in the September 11 hijackings, it should be clear that the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Moussaoui was part of the hijacking group. Unless thay have other, independent evidence, the playing of the Flight 93 recordings is simply an effort to get some prejudicial material in front of the jury.

I continue to have the feeling that prosecution efforts to convict Moussaoui are going to lead to areas that the prosecution would rather leave hidden.