We captured a terrorist in Thailand, in cooperation with local forces, in 2003. The terrorist was responsible for the terrorist attack in Bali that killed over 200 people, and helped plot other terrorist attacks around the world. He also supplied financing for AQ out of Malaysia and the Philippines, and arranged the 2000 al-Qaeda summit in Kuala Lumpur that was attended by two of the 9/11 hijackers.
All of Riduan “Hambali” Isamuddin’s activities took place outside of the US while conducting a war on America and the West. So why is the Obama administration considering a criminal-court trial for a man seized through the work of military and intelligence work?
The Obama administration is considering a criminal trial in Washington for the Guantanamo Bay detainee suspected of masterminding the bombing of a Bali nightclub that killed 202 people, a plan that would bring one of the world’s most notorious terrorism suspects just steps from the U.S. Capitol, The Associated Press has learned.
Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, was allegedly Osama bin Laden’s point man in Indonesia and, until his capture in August 2003, was believed to be the main link between al-Qaida and Jemaah Islamiyah, the terror group blamed for the 2002 bombing on the island of Bali.
The New York Daily News says it’s all about politics:
Conducting a trial in the nation’s capital would be a symbolic repudiation of the policies of former President George W. Bush, who portrayed Hambali as a success story in the Bush administration’s program of interrogating terror suspects in secret CIA prisons overseas.
Bush said such interrogations, which included the simulated drowning technique of waterboarding, helped crack alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and led authorities to Hambali. Under intense questioning at a CIA “black site,” Hambali revealed a plan for another wave of suicide hijackings in the U.S., Bush said.
Republicans complain that these trials make the cities a target for terrorism, but let’s face it — they already are targets for terrorism. The trials will bring heightened risk, but we can minimize that with extensive (and expensive) preparations. The question isn’t whether we can handle the risk — it’s why we would bother. Clearly, the interrogations proved effective enough to expose an attack which Hambali planned to launch against the US, but the techniques used to get that information are suitable for war, not criminal trials. Putting Hambali on the stand will reveal intelligence techniques and expose American agents — unless we plan on changing the rules so dramatically that it will allow those techniques to be admissible when trying Americans on criminal charges as well.
Besides which, exactly what jurisdiction will the US claim for trying Hambali? Unless they plan on prosecuting him for 9/11 involvement, which seems possible but thin, all of Hambali’s “crimes” were committed outside of US jurisdiction. Unless we have suddenly assumed an arrogance thus far only seen in Spanish courts, the US has no jurisdiction to try Hambali for his actions abroad in our criminal courts.
Marc Thiessen blasts the White House for even considering it, and says it points to a big problem with Obama’s approach to counterterrorism:
Hambali and the key members of his terror network were captured only because of information gained from KSM after he underwent enhanced interrogation techniques. (Indeed, it seems that virtually everyone the Obama administration wants to put on trial in civilian court was captured as a result of the CIA interrogation program that Obama shut down.) After 9/11, we were unaware of the Hambali network or its plans — until CIA detainees were captured and questioned. Those detainees told us what we needed to know to take the network down.
Now, some nine years later, we face a new terror network about which we know almost nothing (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula). This network nearly carried off a spectacular Christmas Day attack in Detroit. And the reason we were caught blind about this network and its plans is because — unlike during the period after 9/11 — we are no longer trying to capture, detain, and effectively interrogate senior terrorist leaders such as Hambali.
Marc has a new book coming out on Monday, Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack. It sounds like a book that the White House should read before it further undermines both counterterrorism and the rule of law by allowing foreign terrorists to use our courts to fight their war.
I’ll be interviewing Marc about his book on Tuesday’s edition of The Ed Morrissey Show. Be sure to watch, and in the meantime, put in an advance order for Courting Disaster:
Note: For the clueless or the FTC (but I repeat myself), any sales from links in this post result in a small compensation to me, at no extra cost to the buyer.