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General John Baker served until December as the chief defense council at the military commissions. The military commissions’ prosecutors and defense lawyers are in conversations now about a possible plea deal to resolve the 9/11 case once and for all—that's the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh and three others of their al-Qaeda co-conspirators. It has been hanging around in the military commissions for more than a dozen years, and until the other day, it showed no sign of coming to a close. Trial is still some time away, and appeals will take years more than that, but the current round of plea negotiations promises a potential way out—removing the death penalty from the table in exchange for guilty pleas and presumably life sentences.
Benjamin Wittes sat down with General Baker to talk about his history at the military commissions, why the process has gotten so bogged down and the promise of the current negotiations. Are they different from earlier rounds, or is this another fit and start before policymakers fail to take the leap?