In the annals of poor political judgment, the Obama administration’s decision to try 9/11 mastermind Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and four other Guantanamo Bay-based terrorist detainees in a New York City federal court may yet rank as a blunder without peer in American history.
The administration’s announced motive is to prove that civilian courts can be trusted to dispense justice to America’s deadliest enemies.
But in affording al-Qaeda alumnus Mohammed and his jihadist cohorts the constitutional privileges reserved for common criminals, the administration may have put America on trial and potentially endangered the country to score a political point against its predecessor.
Of Mohammed’s guilt there can be no doubt. By his own account, he had a hand in 31 terrorist plots, chief among them the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans a short distance from Mohammed’s expected trial site in southern Manhattan.
In March 2007, the onetime al-Qaeda number three confessed that he helped Osama bin Laden organize, plan, and execute the 9/11 attacks. “I was responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z,” Mohammed recounted.
Other highlights of Mohammed’s terrorist handiwork include planning the 1993 World Trade Center attack; the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, whom Mohammed boasted of personally beheading; the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings; planning attacks in Thailand, the Philippines and Israel; and planning a series of “second wave” terrorist attacks to be carried out in the aftermath of 9/11 on the Library Tower in Los Angeles, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Empire State Building in New York, as well as targets in Washington State.
As Mohammed once put the obvious in his broken English, “For sure, I’m American enemies.”