Consider this another debatable editorial decision, on a completely different level from US News’ publication of a factually deficient rant about Catholics in public office and debate. The Huffington Post acquired a manifesto written by 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed while at Guantanamo Bay, expressing his insights on jihad and the need for everyone to submit to Islam, and published it. The LA Times covers the essence of the manifesto:
The alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has written a rambling, deeply religious manifesto that suggests Muslims should not use violence to spread Islam — a sharp departure from his earlier boasts of waging violent jihad against the U.S. and other non-Muslim nations.
The unclassified comments by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who will soon turn 50 and who has spent the last decade in U.S. custody, come a year and a half into the pretrial phase of his military commission trial. The writings suggest that he either believes he can convert his U.S. audience or, as he often has done, is playing a mind game to attract publicity, feign mental illness or spare himself the death penalty if convicted in the 2001 attacks, the worst terrorist strikes in American history.
There’s another possibility too, which NRO’s Andy McCarthy suggests. The call to non-violent conversion, McCarthy reminds us, is often a prelude to a violent attack — and the publication of the material may send a signal to AQ to do just that:
The HuffPo considers this newsworthy because it might signal AQ to drop its violent approach to jihad:
The mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks now says that the use of violence to spread Islam is forbidden by the Quran, a major shift away from the more militaristic view he had put forward previously.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s thinking is detailed in a first-of-its-kind 36-page manifesto obtained by The Huffington Post. In a departure from his previous stance, which led the Guantanamo Bay prisoner to tell a military commission, “it would have been the greatest religious duty to fight you over your infidelity,” KSM, as he’s known in intelligence circles, instead seeks to convert the court to Islam through persuasion and theological reflection, going so far as to argue that “The Holy Quran forbids us to use force as a means of converting” and that reaching “truth and reality never comes by muscles and force but by using the mind and wisdom.”
“Don’t believe the media that the Mujahedeen believe that Islam spread in the past and will prevail in the future with the sword,” writes KSM, who has previously admitted to his role in the 9/11 attacks that killed thousands of Americans. He uses the bulk of the manifesto to put his newfound principle into practice, attempting to persuade his captors, prosecutors and lawyers that the path to true happiness lies in Islam.
There are a couple of points to consider in this editorial decision. One, KSM is undoubtedly a newsworthy subject, and his statements would make news whether from the courtroom or in his letters. Second, it’s possibly noteworthy that the man who openly bragged about beheading Daniel Pearl has now discovered that violence is not conducive to conversion, if that’s a credible conversion and it had any meaning for the war on terror. Given that AQ is at the moment attempting the terrorist takeover of both Iraq and Syria, the latter seems highly unlikely. However, the provocation of the manifesto may still give al-Qaeda an opening to declare that the West is still wallowing in its infidel status and therefore KSM’s warnings need a little mass-murder oomph to get the point across.
Andy’s point is better. KSM isn’t someone under arrest for a crime; he’s a terrorist who committed an act of war against the United States which killed nearly 3,000 people. Why would anyone want to broadcast his demented thoughts on anything? At least with the Unabomber, the publication of the manifesto was an attempt to identify and capture him before he could bomb again, which is not necessary with KSM.
Interestingly, Yahoo’s Liz Goodwin asked why journalists aren’t allowed to talk to Gitmo detainees just prior to this release:
It’s been 12 years this week since the first terror suspects arrived at what was then a makeshift, open-air military prison at Guantanamo Bay. Since then, thousands of journalists have been allowed to visit the Cuban base and ask why the government is still holding most of these men without charges and to see what their detention conditions are like.
Most, if not all of these reporters, have asked the military if they could speak to a prisoner. They’ve all been denied. In 12 years, no reporter has ever been allowed to interview a prisoner at Gitmo, as the prison is often called, though some detainees have spoken to the media after they were released.
On a Guantanamo media tour last week with two other journalists, I took a shot and asked for an interview with a prisoner. The answer was an emphatic no. The military cited the Geneva Conventions to explain why. Article 13 of the third convention, adopted in 1949, says prisoners of war must be protected from “insults and public curiosity.”
That’s certainly one reason, although Goodwin argues that the Geneva convention doesn’t actually prevent this if the prisoners request the meeting. Prisoners have access to their attorneys, who have access to media, and no one is entitled to media access in this system anyway. Preventing prisoners from sending messages to their compatriots back home is another good reason, as this incident demonstrates.