Frank Pellegrino, the dogged and quirky FBI guy who had pursued KSM across the globe since the early 1990s and who knew more about him than anybody, was not allowed to go near him until early 2007. The moment seems to come straight out of John le Carre. The antagonists face each other across a government-issue table at Guantanamo and trade stories of near misses. "Pellegrino thought KSM might be the kind of guy you could sit down and have a beer with, if he hadn't been one of the worst mass murderers in American history," note McDermott and Meyer.
On Saturday, KSM remained silent at a 13-hour hearing before a military commission in Guantanamo for himself and four other defendants on charges stemming from the Sept. 11 attacks. The charges could carry the death penalty for the five defendants. The hearing came just more than a year after the Obama administration abandoned efforts to try KSM and his co-conspirators before a civilian court.
Investigators believe parts of KSM's networks remain in place, waiting for another day. As McDermott and Meyer point out, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's hovering presence and the long uncertainty about what to do with him have become metaphors for our general anxiety concerning the war with Islamic terrorism. We wish it was over; we know it isn't.
Rayner is the author, most recently, of "A Bright and Guilty Place: Murder, Corruption, and L.A.'s Scandalous Coming of Age."