Just how much deference is due a family during the execution of a search warrant related to a botched terror attack? The family of Akayed Ullah and the lawyers at CAIR expressed their “outrage” over law enforcement actions yesterday, which might not gain much sympathy after Ullah got caught red-handed — or red-bellied — in the attempt to kill a great many New Yorkers. They did not appreciate having to stand outside in the cold air while investigators searched their houses, legal warrants or no, to ensure that the Fumblewear Bomber didn’t have accomplices or more attacks planned:
In a statement issued Monday evening through the Council on American-Islamic Relations of New York (CAIR-NY), the family said, “We are heartbroken by this attack on our city today and by the allegations being made against our family.”
The statement expressed dissatisfaction about the treatment of the family in the hours after the bombing. “Today we have seen our children, as young as 4 years old, held out in the cold, detained as their parents were questioned.
“One teenage relative,” it said, “was pulled out of high school classes and interrogated without a lawyer, without his parents. These are not the actions that we expect from our justice system.”
If they were “heartbroken” about the attack on the city, then perhaps they wouldn’t be quite so quick to equate it in the same breath with the investigation that followed. They had to stand in the cold, did they, along with their young child? Then perhaps their relative should have conducted his attack in warmer weather. Even without the potential loss of human life, Ullah’s bomb forced a lot of people in New York to stand around in the cold longer than usual in order to find transportation alternatives after shutting down the city’s main bus terminal for a significant period of time. There are worse things than standing around in the cold, and Ullah tried to make the worst of those come true for a lot of New Yorkers.
The allegation about the school interrogation is interesting for a couple of reasons. The circumstances described in this statement make it appear that the initial interrogations may have been conducted for the purpose of intelligence gathering rather than law enforcement. Andrew McCarthy offered a critical assessment of the latter approach yesterday afternoon, assuming that authorities took that approach from the beginning:
If the New York Times is correct, it looks like Akayed Ullah, the Bangladeshi jihadist whose bomb detonated prematurely at the Port Authority Bus Terminal near Times Square during the morning rush hour, is going to be charged with terrorism crimes in civilian federal court. He’ll be prosecuted by my former office, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York in lower Manhattan. The SDNY will be working the Joint Terrorism Task Force (mainly the FBI and the NYPD), just as these law-enforcement agencies are working together in the case of Saifullo Saipov, the West Side Highway jihadist who killed eight people and wounded a dozen others by ramming his rental truck into them a few weeks back.
Ultimately, this may be the right way to handle the case. But I do not understand the rush to bring Ullah into federal court. …
We do not know if Ullah may lawfully be treated as an enemy combatant — i.e., whether he fits the definition of the enemy set forth by Congress in the post-9/11 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). The agents are just starting their investigation. Preliminary indications are that they believe he was “inspired by ISIS” — which usually means he has no known operational ties to ISIS or al-Qaeda (the network from which ISIS broke away, and which is clearly covered by the AUMF). But we probably will not have a good read on that for a few days, at least.
So what’s the rush?
Let’s say the agents detain him for a few days so that he can be questioned without counsel and the agents can obtain any fresh intelligence he may have about other possible attacks. Legally, the worst thing that happens is prosecutors will not be able to use any statements he makes as evidence at his trial. But so what? The bombing attempt is on video and was apparently witnessed by scores of people. Prosecutors do not need a confession to convict this savage, but intelligence agents need to know any information he has that might help us prevent another attack.
Perhaps counterintelligence officials already had a crack at some of the family members first, and didn’t find anything? If so, it would have been only a cursory probe at best, but it might be that they did at least try.
More likely, though, both intelligence and law enforcement were concerned about exigent circumstances than developing prosecutorial evidence for Ullah’s trial, which as McCarthy points out will be a slam-dunk anyway. They needed to know whether Ullah had planted more bombs or was working with a terror cell that had more plans ready to execute. They didn’t have time to make arrangements for the “teenage relative” before getting the information they needed out of him. That might not be able to be used in Ullah’s trial, but they won’t need it to convict Ullah.
The Department of Justice filed terrorism charges against Ullah this morning:
The man who allegedly blew up his homemade explosive in a pedestrian subway tunnel in the heart of the Midtown Manhattan has been charged with criminal possession of a weapon, supporting an act of terrorism and making a terroristic threat, the New York Police Department announced Tuesday. …
Ullah had at least two devices, a law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation tells CNN.
Only one detonated — a foot-long pipe that contained black powder, a battery, wiring, nails and screws. It was attached to Ullah with Velcro and zip ties. Investigators did not elaborate on the second device.
Presumably Ullah is being indicted under 18 USC 2332f, which specifically covers terrorism by explosive device in public-transportation venues. That would give Ullah a maximum of 20 years in prison under 2332(a). Had Ullah succeeded in killing someone he would have gotten a life sentence, but since that success would have almost certainly included his own, it would be a moot point.
Update: Ullah had his own domestic political agenda, too:
MORE: Federal complaint alleges the suspect posted this statement on his Facebook page the morning of the attack: “Trump you failed to protect your nation.” https://t.co/KyZaVfZXbB pic.twitter.com/aeXqixjxQb
— ABC News (@ABC) December 12, 2017
Bear in mind that this was supposed to be discovered posthumously. Instead, Ullah will have to face the consequences of these statements in court. The big question will be whether the remains of ISIS will want to associate themselves with this idiot. Probably; their threshold for intelligence in its recruits is not known to be especially high, after all.