Holder: Dancing with Dorothy in Oz
The Obama administration is portraying guilty pleas entered Monday by an Al Qaeda operative as evidence of how the criminal justice system can be used to combat terrorism.
“It could have been devastating,” Attorney General Eric Holder said at a press conference in Washington Monday. “This attempted attack on our homeland was real. It was in motion. And it would have been deadly.”
At a court hearing in Brooklyn Monday, Najibullah Zazi, 25, admitted that he traveled from Denver to New York to take part in a “martyrdom operation” aimed at avenging civilian deaths due to U.S. operations in Afghanistan. He also admitted to traveling to Pakistan to train for Al-Qaeda led suicide attacks.
“We are at war against a very dangerous, intelligent and adaptable enemy and we must use every weapon available to us in order to win that war. In this case as in so many other ones, the criminal justice system has proved to be an invaluable tool,” Holder said. “We will continue to use it.”
Holder faulted Republicans for undervaluing the role of the civilian courts in pursuing terrorism cases and extracting useful intelligence from defendants through the use of plea agreements.
Plea agreements? Are you kidding me? In one breath he declares our enemy is dangerous, and in the next he claims that using a plea agreement got this guy to flap his gums? Did I just venture into the Twilight Zone, or is it Oz? If Zazi was as hardened as KSM, he would've laughed at FBI interrogators. When first confronted by CIA interrogators KSM laughed at them when they asked what he knew about impending operations. He was defiant. "Soon, you will know." That was his answer to them. [Page 6, "Courting Disaster"] KSM started talking when CIA officers started to employ enhanced interrogation techniques.
But we're supposed to believe that, through FBI interrogators and Justice Department officials, Najibullah Zazi decided it was in his best interest to begin talking. It sounds a lot like the boast from Justice that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab started singing when they brought his family to America. On the heels of both stories of two terrorists it almost sounds as if the administration is trying to downplay this war, our enemy, and the implications of their actions. Yet, Eric Holder admits that we're dealing with a dangerous enemy.
How "dangerous" can they be if they can crack under FBI interrogation? Chances are both aren't the high-level guys they initially claimed when taken into custody. They're frontline martyrs, and if we'll recall what I have reported before about interrogations of detainees. I cited Mr. Thiessen from his book "Courting Disaster" regarding Abu Zubaydah's revelation to interrogators:
He confirmed to interrogators that "brothers who are captured and interrogated are permitted by Allah to provide information when they believe they have reached the limit of their ability to withhold it in the face of psychological and physical hardship." Mr. Thiessen also notes that after being waterboarded, Zubaydah thanked his interrogators and told them "You must do this to all the brothers." The techniques lifted a moral burden from the shoulders of the terrorists. That revelation was an important discovery for CIA interrogators. [Pages 89-90, "Courting Disaster"]
If these two were hardened like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah they wouldn't have cracked as easily as the administration claims they did. They're low-level guys, and while the civilian court system might work for them (I personally don't think a single one of these animals should be put into our civilian court system) it won't work for people like Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden, Adam Gadahn, or any other higher level al Qaeda terrorist. Today, Dana Perrino and Bill Burck pen a retort to Holder at National Review's The Corner:
Najibullah Zazi’s guilty plea — via which he admitted he is an al-Qaeda agent and planned to commit terrorist attacks against the United States — is cause for congratulations to the FBI agents, intelligence professionals, and prosecutors who worked to bring him to justice. Also, it is encouraging that Zazi reportedly may cooperate with authorities as part of his plea agreement.
This is all happening in the civilian court system. But the jury’s still out on whether this was the best course of action — and of course, Zazi’s guilty plea does not show that the civilian system is the best place to deal with all captured terrorists. Zazi is not Khalid Sheikh Muhammad or Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. He is a legal resident of the United States, entitled to many of the protections of a U.S. citizen, unlike KSM or Abdulmutallab; he was not caught in the act, unlike Abdulmutallab; and he was captured on U.S. soil, unlike KSM.
When he was apprehended last summer, even Zazi could have been designated as an enemy combatant — and, because he is not a U.S. citizen, eventually tried by a military commission. He reportedly gave the FBI some information before he was arrested, but eventually stopped cooperating and demanded a lawyer. Supreme Court and federal-court-of-appeals precedent would have permitted authorities to hold him, at least temporarily, as an enemy combatant with no right to remain silent and no right to an attorney while being interrogated. Zazi would have had a right, however, to have an attorney challenge the factual basis of his detention as an enemy combatant.
The authorities chose to put Zazi in the civilian system. This may have been due to questions about the strength of the evidence against him. Unlike Abdulmutallab, who was caught red-handed in the act of committing terror, Zazi was part of a disrupted plot that had not yet reached fruition. More significantly, the FBI’s investigation of Zazi was prematurely blown because of miscommunication between federal and local law enforcement, according to press accounts.
This shows the significant differences between terrorists. KSM had zero rights under US law, and was immediately declared an enemy combatant. The same is true for Abu Zubaydah. Abdulmutallab was caught red-handed, like Richard Reid, and was arrested and charged, based on Justice protocol, within the civilian system because he was caught on US soil. Zazi is a legal US citizen, and is afforded his constitutional protections. BUT, had Zazi possessed immediate, significant intelligence, and he had proven stubborn to interrogators, he could have been charged as an enemy combatant and transferred to the military to face a military tribunal.
That is all moot right now because, as I stated above, it appears that Justice and the administration are cherry-picking these terrorists without paying a damn bit of attention to the intelligence that's been handed to them. Intelligence officials trotted up to Capitol Hill back at the beginning of this month to warn Congress of an imminent attack coming in the next three to six months. They revealed that al Qaeda was focusing their attack efforts on homegrown and low-level terrorists that have little, if any connection, to the organization. In other words, we're not dealing with two, staunch, stubborn al Qaeda operatives. We're dealing with a couple of low-level schmucks that got caught due to their incompetence and ineptitude.
Does that mean that they're not dangerous? Hell no. Turn your back on these two and I can virtually guarantee that they'd jump you. They hate us. They're zealots to the core, but they're not as determined as the higher level guys are. Their breaking point is significantly shorter than others. But for Eric Holder to declare that the civilian system is the best place for these two, based on these two examples alone, is not only naive, but dangerous as well. Justice really shouldn't be trying to fit all terrorists captured into a one-size-fits-all view.
They're not, and the naivete on display from Justice serves to undermine our efforts to defeat our enemy.