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Congressman subpoenaed for 9/11 trial

Weldon asked to testify about what U.S. knew before attacks

From Phil Hirschkorn
CNN

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A trial begins next week to decide whether Zacarias Moussaoui dies by injection or remains jailed for life.

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Attorneys for al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui have subpoenaed Pennsylvania Congressman Curt Weldon to testify at a trial that will determine whether Moussaoui should be executed.

The defense is seeking Weldon's testimony to try and show that the government knew more about the September 11, 2001, attacks than Moussaoui did.

It's a key point the jury will be asked to address at the death penalty trial that begins next week with jury selection.

Weldon, a Republican, received the subpoena last week. It seeks testimony about issues related to Able Danger, a secret pre-9/11 intelligence operation conducted by the Department of Defense.

What did U.S. know?

Weldon, vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, contends that Able Danger mined computer data to identify four of the 19 hijackers, including leader Mohammed Atta, as al Qaeda operatives a year and a half before the September 11 attacks.

The 9/11 commission, which rewrote the public's understanding of the attacks and revealed numerous missed law enforcement opportunities to intercept the hijackers, did not include Able Danger in its final report.

Weldon has spearheaded the call for Congress to hold public hearings on Able Danger and penned a letter signed by a bipartisan group of 248 members of Congress calling on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to permit military analysts who worked on the program to testify.

"It is an important issue in understanding the full scope of 9/11," said Weldon's communications director, John Tomaszewski. "The venue and the time has not been decided."

Weldon 'inclined to cooperate'

Weldon is discussing the Moussaoui subpoena with legal counsel.

"The congressman certainly wants to cooperate any time a subpoena is issued," Tomaszewski said. "He is inclined to cooperate, but has not made a decision yet."

Mark Zaid, an attorney for Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, one of the Pentagon analysts who has come forward to support Able Danger's findings, said Shaffer had not yet received a subpoena.

Moussaoui's attorneys declined to comment.

The defense has disclosed in court filings it intends to call two expert witnesses, including a former FBI agent, to describe the 19 hijackers and the September 11 plot.

Moussaoui pleaded guilty last year to joining al Qaeda's terror conspiracy to fly airplanes into landmark buildings, But he maintains that he came to the United States in early 2000 for a later plot and was not aware of or involved in the September 11 attacks.

U.S.: Lies led to 3,000 deaths

The government is seeking the death penalty for Moussaoui, saying he contributed to the nearly 3,000 9/11 deaths by lying to FBI agents about what he was doing in the United States after he was arrested in August 2001.

He was taken into custody after arousing suspicion at a Minnesota flight school.

Jury selection begins on Monday at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.

During first part of his death penalty trial, the jury will consider whether Moussaoui was forthcoming about his al Qaeda connections, whether he would have alerted the government to the plot or whether the government already possessed enough clues to stop it.

After a month for jury selection, testimony is scheduled to begin in March.

Moussaoui, a 37-year-old Arab born to Moroccan parents, will either be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or death by lethal injection.

The government has not disclosed its witness list, but prosecutors intend to call family members to tell representative stories of 45 people killed on September 11 and the impact of losing them.

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