Wednesday, April 2, 2014


FOR POST 9-11-2001 NYC









(Wednesday, April2, 2014 NY,NY) The NYPD Director of Intelligence Analysis Rebecca Weiner yesterday issued a warning of a sort, regarding the possible increased threat to the City as the trial of the extremely radical terrorist Abu Hamza al-Masri opens here in Manhattan Federal Court later this month.  NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton addressed a large gathering of Jewish leaders also making the point that the upcoming terrorist trial will coincide with the beginning of Passover and that might prompt terrorists to lash out. While no one in NYPD can identify any known plans or any “actionable” intelligence to work with, Bratton perhaps felt it was a good time to remind all New Yorkers that our City remains target number one for terrorists. Commissioner Bratton has been away from New York City for the last 20 years and he does not need to remind any of us about  our perpetually looming threat.  His predecessor, Ray Kelly, took the initiative after September 11, 2001 to make certain that our City would never again be as vulnerable as it was on that sunny Tuesday morning in September 13 years ago.  He formed a robust Intelligence Unit with world-wide connects, revamped the Counter Terrorism and Emergency Services Units and did everything he could to provide the City of New York with our own functional Intelligence Service; a smaller, more effective, efficient, and productive CIA of our own.  Though there have been close calls and other attempts made to deliver destruction and death in our City since 9-11-01 each was either thwarted by timely interdiction or uncovered well in advance by NYPD.


It has been said for hundreds of years of western jurisprudence that “justice delayed is justice denied”.  This legal maxim applies to the aggrieved, the plaintive, or victim of a crime.  Our criminal justice system with our Courts as the ultimate arbiters of “justice” has been severely flawed, in many ways broken, for far too long.  Despite its inherent deficiencies it does, often at a glacial pace, manage – barely – sufficiently enough to fill our jails and prisons, to suck up billions of dollars for federal, state and municipal Courts.  Our system of jurisprudence is rooted firmly in the old English document, The Magna Carta, wherein the basic machinations and conceptual fundamentals are delineated.  As times have changed so too have some of our judicial policies and procedures.  From local Courts up to decisions rendered by our Supreme Court, we have acquired a body of precedent based on the application of our Constitutionally derived laws.  Still, one can argue that for better or worse our system works as it should more often than not.  One of its obvious flaws is the matter of timely justice. 

A week ago today just a few blocks from here Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, Suleiman Abu Ghaith, was successfully tried and convicted on all counts stemming from his conspiracy to commit mass murder, of being a prominent al Qaeda figure before and after the attack on American icons on September 11, 2001.  In an uncharacteristically rapid fashion from the time Abu Ghaith was handed over to US authorities from the Jordanian officials, just a little over 13 months elapsed. That is as close to a record breaking trial in such a complex arena as we've yet witnessed.

Meanwhile, we continue to hold “detainees”, “enemy combatants”: men who planned, plotted and fought Americans via terrorist attacks on object of US interest as they did on the ill-defined battle fields of Afghanistan after 9-11-01.  Many were tribal “warriors” fighting their own internecine battles that far and away predated anything related to deeming the United States an enemy.  Some were members of the firebrand extremist Muslim sect the Taliban who had essentially served as a “central government” in Afghanistan since they helped defeat the forces of the invading USSR; an almost decade long war where we helped arm and equip the mujahedeen.  They would come to use some of the remaining arms that we put in their possession as we supported them as our proxy against the USSR in what our government at the time considered  to be aggressive Soviet expansion.

So much for history; it has all been well documented, studied and analyzed.  Though the threat from terrorists of every denomination, inclination, motivation and ideology remains very real to this day, we have kept men in prison, some for up to 13 years at the American Naval Base, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Gitmo).  Many had spent months or years incarcerated at CIA “black site” while others spent years of torture at the hands of some of our “allies” in our “War on Terror.”  Yes, it is common knowledge that harsh interrogation tactics were used on some of those captured from October 2001 until sometime in 2004.  What type of intelligence these tactics produced is also widely accepted as having been basically useless.  In a practical sense since many of these “detainees” had been held captive for years whatever intelligence they might once have had knowledge of had no value since so much time had elapsed.  Intelligence, particularly “actionable” intelligence has a shelf life just like milk; it is only good for so long.


After all the hand-wringing in the Cheney/Bush Administration regarding the legal status of the men our Military was capturing and incarcerating around the world, the Justice Department under Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, a few of his closest cohorts and the Office of the Vice President, it was determined that those held at Gitmo would face “military tribunals” at that prison base to keep them out of Courtrooms on American soil and thus deprive them of all the rights that come with it.  They also presented the argument that these dangerous men could not stand trial in an open criminal court because some of the Prosecution’s witness’s testimony would likely reveal “intelligence methods and sources” that would compromise our intelligence networks overseas in on-going operations and between our Allies.

Lost in all the years of trying to fit the square pegs that were our captured “enemy combatants” into the round holes of our Federal Court system, were the thousands of relatives of all those lost on September 11, 2001.  For them, right up until last week, there had been no one ever tried for being directly associated to "beyond reasonable doubt" the 9-11-01 al Qaeda operation.  The successful conviction of Suleiman Abu Ghaith set a precedent in that it has been proven  to prosecute others among those housed at Gitmo in our Federal Courts. There have been other convictions of terrorists in Federal Courts over the last 12 years but they had dubious links to al Qaeda, seemed to be “homegrown” small cells of individuals or radicalized “lone wolf” players.

That all the men still held at Gitmo remain in some military/legal limbo is indeed justice delayed and justice denied; neither of which should all the families of the deceased, survivors, friends and all those other wise affected by the September 11, 2001 attacks be haunted by.  The Cheney/Bush aversion to trying these men on US soil in Federal Court was insulting to our Criminal Justice system.  If our President and Vice President express reluctance and trepidation regarding the ability of our Courts that is a sad statement that essentially expresses a lack of confidence in the very Constitution they’d been sworn to defend. 


Trials are virtually always held in the jurisdiction where they the crime was committed.  Exceptions are made, at times, when a particularly high profile case and subsequent media coverage might pollute the jury pool but they remain rare exceptions.  The notion that a defendant or defendants would not get a fair trial in the same jurisdiction where they perpetrated their criminal acts implies that those citizens called for jury duty are incapable of performing their tasks based on the evidence presented to them as well as the arguments from the defense.  While it is impossible to find a crime in American history of the magnitude of September 11, 2001, it has now been proven that a jury comprised of New Yorkers can deliberate with due diligence and act accordingly. 

Since New Yorkers and all those in the NYC Metropolitan Area lost so much on September 11, 2001 and continue to watch family, friends, neighbors and coworkers die from 9-11-01 related malignant diseases it should be paramount that every trial of a defendant directly linked to the planning, plotting and support of the diabolical plan stand and face a Federal Court just a few blocks from the site that once was the home of our Twin Towers.  Obviously, the military tribunal process is broken, flawed, and not up to the challenge regarding the few remaining “high value” prisoners.  The United States government has spent untold hundreds of millions not just on the facilities at GITMO but for the use of other “off shore black sites.”


The next al Qaeda terrorist to be tried here in New York City will be the one-eyed, armless radical Abu Hamza al-Masri.  He has been a high profile ultra-extreme cleric and terrorist largely responsible for the al Qaeda attack on tourists in Yemen in 1998.  While al-Marsi may not have as much blood on his hands, or, more accurately his hooks, as some of those still in Gitmo and among those already tried and convicted, he  once wielded a great deal of influence within the communities of young Muslim men via his vitriolic preaching and constant appeal for as many of them as possible to wage “holy jihad” against Americans, and other westerners, where ever they could.  His sermons, available on CD and on-line, were testaments of the duties that young men should embark upon and to step up to defend Islam from all outside threats. He ceaselessly encouraged throngs of young Arab and Muslim men to travel to Afghanistan and Pakistan for terrorist training at various al Qaeda camps.

Now that the Federal Court in New York City appears to be gaining some experience and traction in their efforts to try all those held on charges of either being or already engaged in some military/legal process waiting to have a “military tribunal” begin, those incarcerated should be systematically prosecuted.  The thought that they are in some mystical way imbued with magical powers that will usher unprecedented chaos into our Federal Court is beyond patently false, it is ludicrous. 

All legal issues aside the only place that any form of “justice” can be meted out for these men is right here on the Island of Manhattan a few short blocks away from the newly constructed One World Trade Center Tower. Our Courts cannot fear that these men will hide behind the defense that they were captured, tortured and often exposed to “enhanced interrogation tactics”.  Some of them probably were.  In the days and weeks immediately following September 11, 2001 as our initial wave of CIA paramilitary operatives and elite military Special Forces Units were inserted into Afghanistan, the greatest concern was that there were already similar terrorists strikes already “in the pipe line” and it would only be through the gathering of intelligence, both signal and vocal, that we could avoid another attack on our homeland. The United States has perpetrated far more egregious allegations under the auspices of "National Security" in the past.  This should have been a no-brainer.

The military justice system, for what it is, has failed miserably regarding the adjudication of the detainees.  Many had been held for years, without any formal charges only to be released and repatriated to their native land or another country willing to allow them entry.  It is well beyond time to get these cases to Court. This is not a statement in support of our prisoners; this is a call to arms in that they need to face an American Court of law soon; as soon as possible.
It is improbable to think that these men possess such incriminating information about our intelligence gathering and interrogation tactics that they are “too dangerous” to enter a Federal Court in New York City.  The “Super Max” Federal Prison in Florence, Colorado presently houses other convicted terrorists as well as some of the most high profile – as in the most  “dangerous” criminals – in the country.  Super Max has their neon red ‘Vacancy’ light flashing.  They have plenty of room, our Constitution and Courts are well equipped to prosecute and by virtually every New Yorker’s interpretation this is the ONLY place in the world where we will, after all these years of fits and starts, motions and counter-motions, let the system play out and convict the guilty and impose a sentence.  That is the best justice we can hope for.  If we lived in a more “just” country those terrorists who are convicted would be sentenced to death and that sentence would be carried out swiftly.


The challenges the Nuremberg Trials faced prosecuting Nazi war criminals after World War II should serve as a template, in a way, for prosecuting these men.  The Trials at Nuremberg predated some of the fundamentals of the Geneva Conventions so; there is legal precedence at least in an international criminal court setting.

That 13 years after that lethal attack on our country we still have detainees in Gitmo is not only an embarrassing statement about our military/justice process but also tarnishes, belittles the idea of American Justice.

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