Buttigieg Says He Would Not Execute 9/11 Mastermind

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg / Getty Images
October 2, 2019

Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg is so opposed to the death penalty he would not support executing 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

The Hill asked Buttigieg about executing Mohammed, who is currently detained at Guantanamo Bay pending a death penalty trial scheduled to begin January 2021. Buttigieg responded that even this case did not merit execution.

"If you mean it, you mean it," he said. "There are people who may deserve to die. I just don't know anybody who deserves to kill them."

This is not the first time Buttigieg has opposed the death penalty. In an April appearance at the National Action Network Convention, Buttigieg said that capital punishment "has always been a discriminatory practice" and called for its abolition. His criminal justice reform plan calls for "a constitutional amendment to abolish the death penalty."

The South Bend, Ind., mayor told the Hill his religious faith informs his categorical opposition to the death penalty, even in the case of terrorists like Mohammed. Buttigieg, who supports abortion up until the moment of birth, said "killing somebody who is defenseless" cannot be justified.

"I do believe that the moral consequence of killing somebody who is defenseless for any reason goes against certainly what I've been taught about the way we're supposed to treat human life," Buttigieg said.

Even states that have largely sought to do away with the death penalty tend to make exceptions for terrorists. Oregon recently implemented a de facto ban on the death penalty, restricting its use only to convicted terrorists. In 1995, Republican New York governor George E. Pataki reinstated the death penalty, citing what he called the "terrorist" murder of 16-year-old Hasidic student Aaron Halberstam.

Mohammed is widely considered the mastermind behind the September 11 attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 Americans.