The Corner

Justice Delayed

As usual, Andy McCarthy hits it out of the park with his column today on NRO, “Justice Delayed.”

I would add only one point: Part of the delay in trying KSM was in fact by choice, and it was a wise choice. Unlike the Obama administration, our first priority in the Bush administration was not putting KSM on trial — it was getting intelligence from KSM so we could stop follow-on attacks and save lives.

Remember what KSM said after his capture: He would tell us everything when he got to New York for his trial. We told him: You’re not going to New York. First, you’re going to spend a little time talking to the CIA. And under CIA questioning, KSM — together with other CIA detainees — gave us vital intelligence that helped stop a number of attacks, including a plot to fly an airplane into the Library Tower in Los Angeles; a plot to fly airplanes in the Heathrow Airport and buildings in downtown London; a plot to blow up our consulate in Karachi; a plot to blow up our Marine camp in Djibouti; and many others. His interrogation produced thousands of intelligence reports, and helped us wrap up the two main terrorist networks still at large at the time of his capture: the remaining members of the KSM network that had planned the 9/11 attacks, and the key members of the Hambali network that was working with al-Qaeda on follow-on attacks.

Once we had exhausted KSM as an intelligence source, President Bush transferred him and 13 other detainees from CIA custody to Guantanamo Bay so that they could face justice. If it had not been for the legal obstacles Andy cites, their trials would have begun soon thereafter.

And had it not been for the Obama administration, KSM and his partners would now be sitting on death row. KSM and his co-conspirators offered to plead guilty once their military commissions got underway and proceed straight to execution — until the Obama administration suspended the proceedings. This means that, with his decision to give KSM a civilian trial, Eric Holder effectively rejected KSM’s guilty plea, and told him, “No, Mr. Mohammed, first let us give you that stage you wanted in New York to rally jihadists to kill Americans and incite new attacks.”

That decision is what will lead to years of delay — and could lead to new terrorist attacks.

It is telling that Eric Holder considers the three years KSM spent being questioned by the CIA as a “years of delay.” To the contrary, the delay in KSM’s prosecution saved lives.

If we had followed the Obama/Holder model, and sent KSM to New York to see his lawyer, there would likely be craters in the ground in Los Angeles, London, and where our consulate in Karachi and our Marine camp in Dijbouti once stood.

– Marc Thiessen’s new book, Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack, will be published by Regnery in January 2010.