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He said he came away impressed with the military justice system, with defense lawyers putting up an aggressive defense.

“If they had done this [in] another country, it would have been a different story,” Mr. Bracken said Sunday, “but this is America.”

Human rights groups and defense lawyers say the secrecy of Guantanamo and the military tribunals will make it impossible for the defense. They argued the U.S. kept the case out of civilian court to prevent disclosure of the treatment of prisoners such as Mr. Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced in 2009 that Mr. Mohammed and his co-defendants would be tried blocks from the site of the destroyed trade center in downtown Manhattan, but the plan was shelved after New York officials cited huge costs to secure the neighborhood and family opposition to trying the suspects in the U.S.

Congress then blocked the transfer of any prisoners from Guantanamo to the U.S., forcing the Obama administration to refile the charges under a reformed military commission system.

MR. Mohammed, a Pakistani citizen who grew up in Kuwait and attended college in Greensboro, N.C., has admitted to military authorities that he was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks “from A to Z,” as well as about 30 other plots, and that he personally killed Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Mr. Mohammed was captured in 2003 in Pakistan.

Ramzi Binalshibh allegedly was chosen to be a hijacker but couldn’t get a U.S. visa and ended up providing assistance such as finding flight schools. Walid bin Attash, also from Yemen, allegedly ran an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and researched flight simulators and timetables. Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi is a Saudi accused of helping the hijackers with money, Western clothing, traveler’s checks and credit cards. Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, a Pakistani national and nephew of Mr. Mohammed, allegedly provided money to the hijackers.

During the failed first effort to prosecute the men at the base in Cuba, Mr. Mohammed mocked the tribunal and said he and his co-defendants would plead guilty and welcome execution. The lawyers’ statements indicate that plan has changed.

Associated Press writer Verena Dobnik in New York contributed to this report.