A former Baltimore area resident held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has reached a plea agreement with military prosecutors that calls for him to testify at the trials of other detainees in exchange for a much-reduced sentence and eventual freedom, according to officials familiar with the case.
The plea agreement with Majid Khan, 31, is the first with a high-value detainee who was previously held by the CIA at a secret prison overseas.
Khan’s plea agreement could mark the beginning of an effort to accelerate the number of military commission cases by the new chief military prosecutor, Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, who assumed his position in October.
“What we are beginning to see are the fruits of putting General Martins in as chief, and he is bringing rigor, professionalism and energy to” a system that was stalled, said Charles “Cully” D. Stimson, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs in the George W. Bush administration and now a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation. “You would expect cases to start flowing, and one part of that is pleas.”
There are 171 detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, and an Obama administration task force recommended that 36 of them be prosecuted in federal court or military commissions.
Khan was charged this month with war crimes, including murder, attempted murder, spying and providing material support for terrorism. Unusually, the case was almost immediately referred to a commission, signaling that a deal was in the works. Such referrals typically take weeks or months.
Khan was captured in Pakistan in March 2003. He vanished into the CIA’s network of prisons until Bush announced in September 2006 that Khan and 13 other high-profile detainees, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, had been transferred to Guantanamo Bay.
Khan’s June 2008 detainee assessment at Guantanamo Bay found him to be a high risk to the United States and its allies, a low detention threat, and of “high intelligence value.”
In recent days, Khan, a Pakistani citizen who was a legal U.S. resident, was moved out of the top-security Camp 7, which houses the high-value detainees, in anticipation of an arraignment next week at which he will enter a guilty plea, said the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity in advance of the hearing.
Khan has agreed, if requested, to testify at military commission trials in the next four years, and he would then be eligible to be transferred to Pakistan at some point after that, the officials said. Khan has a wife and daughter in Pakistan.
The officials would not specify the amount of time Khan would serve if he fulfilled his obligations under the agreement.
“There is an arraignment next week, and Mr. Khan has every right to enter any motion,” said Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a Pentagon spokesman.
Lt. Col. Jon Jackson, Khan’s military attorney, declined to comment. J. Wells Dixon, Khan’s civilian attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, also declined to comment.