Government prosecutors had a good day Wednesday, breaking major ground in two terrorism cases. In federal court in Brooklyn, prosecutors revealed new information in the Najibullah Zazi New York subway bombing case, including the indictment of a high-ranking al Qaeda member long on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list. At the military commissions in Guantanamo, prosecutors announced the guilty plea -- the first conviction in a military commission during the Obama administration -- of Osama bin Laden's chef. No seriously, bin Laden's chef!
The al Qaeda sponsored plot to conduct coordinated suicide attacks on the New York subway system was the most serious terrorist plot directed at the United States since 9/11. Zazi had been under FBI surveillance for months and was arrested, along with several other conspirators, just days before they had planned to detonate backpack bombs on three packed trains at rush hour. Zazi and another of his co-defendants have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with the government, providing information that will surely lead to the conviction of the third defendant, tied this foiled attack to one in England also uncovered last year, and has now produced a new indictment against the organizer of the plots, Adnan el-Shukrijumah.
Shukrijumah, who remains at large, came under close scrutiny after 9/11 because of his ties to the United States and links to terrorist groups. He moved to the United States in the 1980s and attended Broward Community College in Florida. Numerous media reports have erroneously described Shukrijumah as a U.S. citizen, but the FBI lists him as Guyanese. He was put on the Most Wanted Terrorists list in 2003 and directly linked to specific threats against the United States by Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2004. But according to terrorism experts, he "disappeared" about five years ago. The information provided by Zazi has clearly been the most specific intelligence on this dangerous terrorist the U.S. has received in years.
Military commission prosecutors announced yesterday that they had secured the guilty plea of Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi on charges of material support for terrorism and conspiracy charges. Qosi, now 50 years old, was a mujahidin fighter in the Afghan war against the Soviet Union and later returned to Afghanistan in the mid-1990s to live at an al Qaeda camp where, according to prosecutors, "he was in charge of the kitchen." This counts as a "good day" for military prosecutors at Guantanamo.
Qosi's guilty plea brings to four the total number of convictions at the Bush-Obama military commissions. Two of the previous three have already served their time and are living freely in their home countries. One of those already out is Salim Hamdan, who was convicted on charges of material support for terrorism for being bin Laden's driver. Hamdan's sentence amounted to an additional five months added onto the time he had already been at Guantanamo. If that sentence is any indication, Qosi could be headed back to Sudan pretty soon.
Federal law enforcement officials arrested three actual suicide bombers in the United States preparing the most serious terrorist attack on America since 9/11. Federal prosecutors then secured the guilty plea and cooperation of the lead bomber, uncovering among other valuable information, significant intelligence on the activities of the mastermind of the plot who is also one of the U.S. government's most wanted terrorists.
In one of their biggest victories in the military commissions' more than eight years of existence, Guantanamo prosecutors obtained a guilty plea from an aging al Qaeda cook. There is no indication that Qosi ever provided any useful intelligence during his nine years of detention, let alone information on the activities of bin Laden. So now that the Bush-Obama military commissions have convicted Osama bin Laden's driver and his baker, I am sure that his candlestick maker is next.
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