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U.S. News and Commentary



Thursday
Apr302009

‘Millennium Bomber’ example of dealing with terrorists Clinton-style

Ahmed Ressam, aka The Millenium Bomber, owes a federal judge a thank-you note for his reduced sentence. [Photo from FBI/US Gov. site]The outcome of Ahmed Ressam’s December trial in Seattle should have been front page news. Ressam, 40, is better known as the ‘Millennium Bomber.’ He was detained by Customs and Border Patrol officials December 14, 1999 at Port Angeles (Wash.) when they noticed he appeared to be nervous. In the trunk of Ressam’s rental car, he had materials for a powerful explosive. He subsequently admitted that he planned to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on the eve of the Millennium 2000 celebrations. His story caused a stir, but of course the stir was controlled because we caught him before damage was done.

Ressam faced a sentence of 65 years to life, and in 2001, he told authorities he would provide information to the US and testify against others. By 2003 he had stopped talking and at his trial 6 years later, he claimed he was “mentally incompetent” and asked the court to retract everything he’d said. The would-be bomber then asked the court to sentence him to life in prison. Prosecutors agreed.

Prosecutors said 2 key prosecutions had been dismissed because of Ressam’s lack of cooperation. First Assistant US Attorney Mark Bartlett said, “This court has shown fairness and compassion and he has repaid that with contempt. Ressam manipulated this court to get what he wanted.” Bartlett pointed out that Ressam was now trying to use his position as a cooperating defendant to help his fellow terrorists.

But US District judge John C. Coughenhour re-imposed the defendant’s original sentence of 22 years. Judge Coughenhour said Ressam’s cooperation “proved to be invaluable,” and stated that he was “even more confident today, that this is the right sentence.”

There’s enough irony in Ressam’s case to fill a stadium. A spokesperson for the Department of Justice told The US Report, “His testimony was useful in that it allowed information that had been held by an intelligence branch to now be used for law enforcement.” In other words, all that help Ressam provided wasn’t exactly intentional.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington is awaiting permission from the Solicitor General’s office to file an appeal for the sentence.

Ressam’s case is in a league of irony with that of The Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel-Rahman. The Smoking Gun reported, “Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman laughed at the ease with which his legal team improperly smuggled messages that allowed the Muslim extremist to continue directing terrorist operations while serving a life sentence in a Minnesota prison cell, according to a sealed FBI affidavit…” The sheikh was convicted for his involvement in plots to blow up landmarks in New York among other sites. His conviction followed investigations of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. His hatred for America is well documented. The Blind Sheikh would basically like to see the good citizens of the entire US expire.

In a widely publicized video in September, 2006, Ayman al-Zawahri, al-Qaeda #2 boss, was angry about the sheikh’s imprisonment. Zawahri asked all Muslims to take revenge on America for imprisoning the cleric-terrorist. The Blind Sheikh serves as a symbol to extremists who have hijacked a religion for the simple purpose of advancing power and taking treasure. It’s logical to assume our imprisonment of this man has caused certain elements in other countries to hate the US.

While a country may self-congratulate about detaining and prosecuting terrorists, that same country is then faced with more than one dilemma. What do you do with said terrorist who by living becomes a political handicap, even a political symbol to his fellows?

The Wall Street Journal featured an article on Tuesday about suggestions for a “Truth Commission” on the matter of waterboarding. There’s an interesting passage about that practice: “Andrew McCarthy is the former assistant U.S. attorney who put Omar Abdel-Rahman (the blind sheikh) behind bars for the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. Mr. McCarthy explained it this way to me: ‘When Senate Democrats didn't have the votes, they voted to make waterboarding illegal. Now they have the votes, but there's no effort to ban waterboarding. And the reason is that they are more interested in setting off a partisan witch hunt than passing a principled ban on something they say is torture.’

As I finish this column there is a videotape circling the Web, wherein a sheikh in the royal family in our allied country the United Arab Emirates, is (allegedly) torturing a man who (allegedly) owed the sheikh money. The torture, says ABC News, was done with whips, electric cattle prods and wooden planks with protruding nails. The collector finished by running over the debtor with an SUV.

The United Nations, the International Red Cross, Human Rights Watch and leftwing extremists are oddly silent about the torture case in the UAE.

Meanwhile The Millennium Bomber awaits word on the appeal, living in relative comfort courtesy of his Clinton-style treatment.

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