That’s the subject of my column this morning. In trying to promote public confidence in the civilian justice system’s capacity to detain and try terrorists — the better to get Gitmo shut down — the attorney general omitted the inconvenient case of the most significant al-Qaeda defendant ever brought to the U.S. for prosecution. Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, an Iraqi founder of his friend Osama bin Laden’s terror network, never made it to the embassy bombing trial:
On Nov. 1, 2000, while he was housed in Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center (a stone’s throw from the federal courthouse, as well as the headquarters both of the FBI and that of the NYPD), Salim was scheduled to meet for trial preparation with his attorneys — who, it goes without saying, were being paid by the American taxpayers he had sworn to kill. But Salim didn’t see it as an opportunity to exercise precious due-process rights. Instead, it was his chance to execute the escape plot he had hatched with his fellow defendants.
Salim’s plan was to kidnap his American lawyers in order to escape with his confederates. The effort was foiled, but not before Salim jammed a razor-sharpened comb, fashioned and concealed in his high-security cell, several inches through the eye and into the brain of Louis Pepe, a 42-year-old Bureau of Prisons guard. Officer Pepe survived, barely, but was left maimed and impaired….