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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Why not treat Abdulmutallab like Ramzi Yousef

For any of you who don't recall the name Ramzi Yousef (pictured), which may well include most of you under the age of 30, he was the mastermind of the first attempt to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993, in which six people were killed, about 1,000 wounded and thousands of people had to make their way out of the buildings by the stairs. Yousef's 'mistake' was trying to blow the building up from the bottom - he placed a powerful bomb in a parking garage.

Yousef and his co-conspirators were tried as criminals. Yousef is serving a life sentence in a maximum security prison in Colorado. The Obama administration claims that Yousef is a model for the criminal justice system working and claims that the Northwest (Delta) 253 bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, should be treated the same way. The Wall Street Journal explains why that's wrong, why Abdulmutallab should be treated as a war criminal, and that the Bush administration would have treated Yousef as a war criminal had it had the opportunity to do so (Yousef was arrested and put on trial during the Clinton administration, but Bush treated Zacarias Moussawi and Richard Reid as criminals and not as prisoners of war as well).

Many people don't understand the difference between treating a terrorist as a prisoner of war and treating him as a war criminal. The difference is critical.
We now know that when Yousef was captured, in 1995, al Qaeda leaders were working feverishly to attack American targets. Yousef's uncle is none other than Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11 and one of Yousef's co-conspirators in the failed Bojinka plot to blow up airliners across the Pacific Ocean.

Yet as far as we know, Yousef told U.S. interrogators little or nothing about KSM's plots and strategy once he was in U.S. custody. This isn't surprising, since once he was in the criminal justice system Yousef was granted a lawyer and all the legal protections against cooperating with U.S. interrogators. To this day, we don't recall any official claim that Yousef has provided useful intelligence of the kind that KSM, Abu Zubaydah and other al Qaeda leaders later did when they were interrogated by the CIA.

All of this is directly relevant to the Administration's rash decision to indict Abdulmutallab on criminal charges immediately after his arrest in Detroit on Christmas weekend. The Nigerian jihadist could have been labeled an enemy combatant, detained indefinitely, and interrogated with a goal of discovering who he had met in Yemen, whether other plots are underway, and much else that might be relevant to preventing the next terror attempt. This is a far higher priority than convicting Abdulmutallab and sending him to jail.
In fact, the article goes on to say, the Obama administration plans to offer Abdulmutallab a plea bargain(!) as a way for extracting information from him. Obama's best case scenario is that someone who tried to murder at least 300 Americans will see the light of day in exchange for some information about al-Qaeda's plans and activities. There has to be - and is - a better way.

When President Obama stopped using the term 'war on terror,' there was more to it than semantics. Obama doesn't believe that America is fighting a war. And in fact, under Obama, America is no longer fighting a war. Obama has declared victory that the war is over and walked away from the battlefield.

What could go wrong?


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