The Trial of Zacarias Moussaoui

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On the horrific morning of September 11, 2001, when planes crashed into buildings and fell from the sky, Zacarias Moussaoui was sitting in a jail in Minnesota facing immigration charges. Even if he had not been arrested three weeks earlier, when he raised suspicion by paying large sums to a flight training school to learn to pilot a Boeing 747 despite his never having piloted a small plane, it seems unlikely that Moussaoui would have been the twentieth hijacker on one of the four doomed planes. Nonetheless, largely because of the convenient fact that he was alive and in custody, the French citizen of Moroccan descent became the only person tried in an American courtroom for involvement in the 9/11 tragedy. As such, his trial came to be much more than a proceeding to determine whether one would-be terrorist would live or die: it became an opportunity for survivors and relatives of 9/11 victims to seek that elusive closure, and an occasion for evaluating - with the benefit of revealing documents released at the trial - whether thousands of innocent lives could have been saved if bureaucrats only focused more on protecting the country than advancing their careers.

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