- The Washington Times - Monday, March 21, 2005

The Supreme Court yesterday rejected September 11 terror suspect Zacarias Moussaoui’s appeal for permission to interview other terror detainees who he says would exonerate him.

The justices made no comment in rejecting the appeal, a move that effectively paves the way for a trial to begin for the only person charged in the United States in connection with the September 11 attacks.

Moussaoui’s trial was delayed last year when he argued for the right to interview three other al Qaeda suspects in U.S. custody. Their names haven’t been released, but two are thought to be high-ranking al Qaeda suspects Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh.

During secret interrogations, Mohammed, the suspected September 11 mastermind, denied “ever considering Moussaoui” for the plot, according to the final report of the September 11 commission last July. However, the report outlines confusion over Moussaoui’s role and ultimately concludes he may have been “being primed as a possible pilot” for the suicide hijackings.

The Justice Department, which yesterday said the government will soon propose a trial date for Moussaoui, has argued that allowing him access to other prisoners would jeopardize national security.

The Supreme Court’s decision upholds a lower court ruling, which allows Moussaoui to read statements made by the al Qaeda detainees and to submit written questions to them.

Moussaoui, 35, a Frenchman of Moroccan descent, is acting as his own attorney in the case, the pretrial wranglings of which have gone on more than three years in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, in Alexandria. Judge Leonie M. Brinkema, who is presiding over the case, had initially allowed Moussaoui to question other terror detainees via secure satellite transmission.

In other Supreme Court action:

• The justices refused to consider if President Bush’s recess appointment of William Pryor to the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in February usurped the Senate’s say on judicial nominees.

Justice John Paul Stevens submitted a two-page explanation, cautioning observers not to read the high court’s refusal as a granting of permission for the White House to use the tactic again for future nominations.

• The justices declined to reinstate a lawsuit by a slain Colorado woman’s parents and husband, who claim authorities botched the investigation of her death. A lower court denied the suit, as well as attempts by the parents and husband to question journalists who covered the investigation.

• The justices rejected an appeal by Altria Group Inc.’s Philip Morris USA in a case involving $9 million in punitive damages that were awarded to a California woman who was a former longtime smoker and who has lung cancer.

• The justices declined to hear arguments involving when wine companies can put the words “Napa Valley” on wine bottles. Wine sold with such labels must have at least 75 percent Napa-grown grapes, according to a lower court ruling.

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