Mohammed appeared as his own attorney on Monday, his fourth hearing meant to set conditions for the joint conspiracy trial alleging the five conspired to have suicide squads hijack airplanes and then strike the Pentagon and World Trade Center.
The charge sheet lists the names of 2,973 dead, among them the firefighter trainee son of Maureen and Alex Santora, who died at the World Trade Center. Maureen Santora declared herself ''relieved'' that the men had admitted to the crime, and disgusted by their lack of contrition.
Bin al Shibh, for example, blurted out holiday greetings at the end of the hearing, which fell on the Muslim Feast of the Sacrifice, Eid al Adha.
He capped it with a grisly salute to the still at-large al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden: ``May God protect him.''
''I hope the jihad continues and strikes the heart of America with all kinds of weapons of mass destruction,'' bin al Shibh said -- before the trial judge cut him off with ``that's quite enough.''
This was the first time the Pentagon brought victim observers, and the day ended with a ringing endorsement of the Guantánamo court and prison camps by four of the five victim observers.
Should the judge accept the guilty pleas, he would need to seat a jury or commission of 12 senior U.S. military officers to deliberate a sentence. On Monday the jury pool was scattered at posts around the world.
Ultimately, the president as commander-in-chief has the last say on execution, and the case involving Mohammed and his four accused co-plotters is not likely to be settled before President Bush leaves office Jan. 20.
Judge Henley disclosed the five men made their offer, signed by each alleged 9/11 conspirator on Nov. 4 -- Election Day -- after prison camp guards arranged for a rare joint meeting of the group.
The five wrote to ''request an immediate hearing to announce our confessions.'' They said their offer was without ''any pressure, threat or intimidation'' and invoked the name of ``God, . . . the sponsor of success.''
The Pentagon would not release their statement.
Henley is new to the case. He replaced a retiring Marine colonel, and said he first read the offer at Guantánamo on Sunday night.
Mohammed said at his June 5 arraignment that he welcomed ``martyrdom.''
Defense lawyers, both military and civilian, had planned to challenge the charges as well as the legitimacy of the war court. Judge Henley allowed them to call witnesses to pursue an argument that the prosecution was politically motivated.
''It will not render justice in any sense of the word,'' declared the American Civil Liberties Union's Anthony Romero, whose group has budgeted millions on civil defense lawyers. ``Torture is what's at stake here, and the only way forward is for President-elect Obama to make good on his promise to shut these commissions down.''
There was no mention Monday of the hearing's timing -- convened after the election of Obama as president, who has said he prefers traditional federal trials to the Guantánamo system.
Some lawyers warned against speedy execution of Mohammed and his alleged co-conspirators, arguing for a court exploration of the circumstances of Mohammed's original confession.
''What should be a major victory in holding the 9/11 defendants accountable for terrible crimes will be tainted by torture and an unfair commissions process,'' said Jennifer Daskal, an attorney with Human Rights Watch.