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USA Today Op-ed on KSM Prosecution: "Years of Delay" Saved Lives

Posted on November 24, 2009 by Marc Thiessen

Did the Bush administration purposely hold off on prosecuting KSM, as Attorney General Eric Holder suggests? Of course. And the fact that Holder sees this as a mistake exposes the dangerous thinking of this administration.

By Marc A. Thiessen

In announcing President Obama's decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four of his accused 9/11 collaborators in civilian court, Attorney General Eric Holder took several swipes at President Bush for failing to prosecute these terrorists."After eight years of delay, those allegedly responsible for the attacks of September the 11th will finally face justice," Holder declared in a news conference. A few days later he told Congress, "No more delay. It is time — it is past time — to finally act."Put aside, for a moment, the fact that KSM was not captured until six years ago. And put aside the fact that even if the Bush administration had wanted to try him immediately it could not have done so — because lawsuits (including those filed by Holder's law firm, Covington & Burling) prevented KSM's trial by military commission from proceeding until 2008.Is Holder right? Did President Bush intentionally delay the prosecution of KSM and other accused 9/11 terrorists? He most certainly did. And the fact that Holder considers this a mistake exposes a dangerous mentality on the part of the Obama administration — one that increases the risk that our country will suffer another terrorist attack.

Thwarting future attacks when KSM was captured in March 2003, he refused to answer questions, informing his captors: "I'll tell you everything when I get to New York and see my lawyer." But the Bush administration did not send KSM to New York. Instead, he was sent to a CIA "black site," where he was questioned, not for evidence in a criminal trial but for intelligence about future terrorist attacks. When asked about his plans, he told the CIA, "Soon, you will know." And he declared that Americans were weak, lacked resilience, and were unable to do what is necessary to prevent the terrorists from succeeding in their goals.But after undergoing "enhanced interrogation techniques" — including waterboarding — KSM became prolific. According to declassified documents, he provided information that led to the capture of a cell of Southeast Asian terrorists KSM had tasked to hijack a plane and fly it into the tallest skyscraper in Los Angeles. He provided information that led to the capture of Ammar al-Baluchi and Walid bin Attash, just as they were completing plans to blow up the U.S. consulate and Western residences in Karachi, Pakistan. He provided information that helped lead to the arrest of Sayfullah Paracha and his son Uzair Paracha, two businessmen with whom KSM was plotting to smuggle explosives into the USA. He provided information that helped break up an al-Qaeda cell that was developing anthrax for terrorist attacks inside the U.S.In addition, KSM explained al-Qaeda's operating structure, financing, communications and logistics. He described the traits and profiles that al-Qaeda sought in Western operatives, how al-Qaeda might select targets, what probable targets were and the likely methods of attack. He gave U.S. officials a picture of the terrorist organization as seen from the inside, at a time when we knew almost nothing about the enemy that had hit us on 9/11.In other words, the delay in KSM's prosecution, and that of other CIA detainees, saved lives.Moreover, were it not for the delays in prosecution to allow CIA interrogations, Holder would have no one to put on trial. Ramzi Binalshibh was captured only because of information the CIA elicited after waterboarding a terrorist named Abu Zubaydah. Binalshibh and Zubaydah then gave the CIA information that led to the capture of KSM and Mustafa al-Hawsawi. KSM in turn provided the CIA information that led to the capture of al-Baluchi and Attash. If not for CIA interrogations, these dangerous terrorists might still be at large, planning new attacks instead of facing justice.


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