Andrew McCarthy, who led the successful prosecution of terrorists responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, tells Newsmax TV that he remains concerned the Obama administration might one day agree to trade away the blind sheik who masterminded the 20-year-old attack.
“I’m still concerned about that,” acknowledged McCarthy in an exclusive interview on Tuesday. “I never was very concerned that they would release him to the terrorists as a sort of a quid pro quo in the middle of a violent jihadist attack and hostage situation.”
McCarthy was referring to recent reports that the al-Qaida-linked militants who seized a natural gas complex in Algeria offered to release American hostages in exchange for two people being held in the United States — the blind sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, convicted in the 1993 bombing, and Aafia Siddiqui
, a 40-year-old Pakistani neuroscientist and mother of three, who was convicted of attacking U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
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“I don’t think even the Obama administration would do that,” said McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. attorney in New York City who also is an author and columnist.
But that doesn’t mean they won’t do so in the future.
“Unfortunately, they have a history of engaging in these kinds of negotiations and exchanges — including releasing ultimately back to the Iraqis and the Iranians the guy who was behind the jihadist network that had our soldiers killed in Karbala.”
McCarthy, whose new book is called “Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy,”
said that the blind sheik has become a highly sought after prize by America’s enemies.
“Unfortunately the blind sheik is a big agenda item for Islamists throughout the world,” he explained. “They’ve basically been agitating for his release virtually since we put him in jail in the summer of 1993.”
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has vowed to free the blind sheik, who is serving a life sentence for conspiracies to blow up New York City landmarks, including the United Nations, and assassinate then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
McCarthy also remains critical of the administration’s national security policy toward al-Qaida.
“It’s unfortunately the same policy that we followed in the 1990s, which is, with a minor refinement . . . return terrorism to the criminal justice system mainly using the courts as our main counterterrorism response,” he said. “When I say there’s been a refinement on this, the Obama administration — admirably in many ways — has stepped up the drone attacks on terrorism havens, and that’s obviously something that has to be done.”
While supportive of such tactics, McCarthy acknowledges that they mark a shift in U.S. policy.
“I don’t mean to quibble with them on this score, but they’ve unfortunately used killing by drone as a substitution for capturing in many circumstances, where we could have captured and gotten intelligence out of the people that they’ve instead decided to target for military attacks,” he explained. “I must say as someone who doubted that the Obama administration would do even that much, I’m grateful for the fact that they’ve at least done that part of the mission which has to be done.”
He believes that terrorists should not be allowed to operate freely in safe havens, which can then be used to plot terrorist attacks against the United States.
“Historically we know that when we give them places where they can set up shop, they use those places as platforms for attacking Americans. That’s why what’s happening in North Africa right now is such a catastrophe for our national security,” he said, adding that no one should be surprised to see al-Qaida gaining strength in that region.
“Remember that in 1998, our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were attacked,” he recalled. “They were attacked by al-Qaida operatives who actually drew up those plans in the early- to mid-1990s when they were forming the first cells that al-Qaida had. At least it was East Africa at that time, so they’ve had a presence in this region for a long period of time.”
While al-Qaida has had a presence in the region for some time, he said that the terrorist organization has gained numbers and strength in recent years thanks in part to the Obama administration.
“The war that Obama launched in Libya, which many of us were opposed to, has had the predictable result of making Gaddafi’s arsenal available to jihadists,” he said. “And they have raided it and used it to arm terrorists around the world, particularly in North Africa.”
He also takes issue with the description of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood as a nonviolent Islamist movement.
“I’ve always been a little bit confused about how a nonviolent Islamist movement can have Hamas as its Palestinian branch, but you know — leaving that aside — the goal of these movements, whether they’re the al-Qaida brand or the Muslim Brotherhood brand, or the different affiliations in between is always and everywhere to install Sharia as a precursor or precondition to Islamizing the society and that’s what we’re seeing every place that they operate, including Africa.”
He insists that the alleged cover-up over the attack of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi is akin to Watergate, which took down the Nixon administration in the 1970s.
“You have a seven-hour siege by Jihadists against Americans in Benghazi,” he said. “When did the president find out about it? We have reason to believe it was early on in the seven-hour period. Under circumstances where you had American military assets within an hour of the place where Americans were under attack, what directives did the commander in chief give to protect Americans? And if he did give orders to protect Americans, why weren’t those orders carried out? If he didn’t give them, that in and of itself is an amazing maleficence, and amazing dereliction of duty.”
McCarthy believes that Congress would be remiss if legislators fail to press Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for answers to such questions when she testifies before House and Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.
“She should not only be made to confront those questions, the key question in my mind is why did we have a diplomatic installation of some kind in Benghazi at all? We know that it was doing normal diplomatic work,” according to McCarthy. “In Libya, that’s done in Tripoli. It’s not done in Benghazi. It hasn’t been clear — and the State Department certainly hasn’t made it clear — of what in the world that installation in Benghazi was for in the first place. But it’s utterly irresponsible for the government to have diplomatic installations, or frankly any other kind of installation, in a place where we can’t protect American lives and American property.”
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