The Obama administration’s rumored decision to reverse its plan to try alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian court instead of a military tribunal signals a welcome political retreat, says Marc Thiessen, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush.
Such a flip-flop would show that the pressure former Vice President Dick Cheney and others exerted against a civilian trial for Mohammed and his codefendants has prevailed, Thiessen told Newsmax.TV.
“The idea we should try these guys in civilian courts is dangerous and misguided,” said Thiessen, whose new book is titled “Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack.”
“When they first caught Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and brought him into CIA custody, they asked him for information on plots for new attacks,” Thiessen said. “And he said, ‘I’ll tell you everything when I get to New York and see my lawyer.’ ”
Instead, the CIA took him to a detention facility for interrogation and learned new information that thwarted terrorist attacks. The targets included the American consulate in Karachi, Pakistan; a Marine camp in Djibouti, Africa; and buildings in Europe and the Library Tower in Los Angeles.
The terrorist mastermind also had offered to plead guilty and proceed to execution before President Obama’s decision to suspend the military commission that had been hearing his case.
The administration said, “No, Mr. Mohammed, we are going to give you that stage on Broadway that you wanted to spread your jihadi propaganda,” Thiessen said. “This is a man who disappeared from the world stage, from the eyes of the jihadists for eight years now.
“No one has seen or heard from him in almost a decade, and now he’s going to all of a sudden appear on the international stage and start turning the trial into a platform to attack America and our counterterrorism policies. That would be very, very dangerous.”
Thiessen faults Obama in other areas as well.
“President Obama is more interested in being secretary of health and human services than commander in chief,” he said. “The fact is, we almost had a major terrorist attack in our midst on Christmas Day where it wasn’t a foiled terrorist attack.
“This man broke through our defenses, and if the bomb hadn’t malfunctioned, there would have been thousands of dead people in the city of Detroit,” said Thiessen, who wrote Bush’s 2006 speech on enhanced interrogation techniques.
Thiessen said his book seeks to correct the record on issues such as waterboarding and the fact that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi knew about enhanced interrogation in spite of her denials.
The formerly classified nature of these techniques made it nearly impossible for the Bush administration to respond candidly to critics’ claims, which Thiessen discounts in his book. But Obama’s decision to declassify the relevant documents now makes it possible to refute them.
Documents show that Pelosi approved of the CIA’s plans to waterboard high-value detainees, in spite of her claim that the CIA lied to her in September 2002 and said no one had been waterboarded.
“But she admits that, a few months later, in February 2003, she learned about waterboarding, so there is no question that she knew about it years and years and years ago,” Thiessen said.
Pelosi has said she didn’t try to stop it because she felt she couldn’t. But Thiessen said he discovered during an interview with a senior CIA official that Pelosi blocked another CIA covert operation that would have funneled money to moderate parties to counter Iranian influence in the Iraqi election.
“She picked up the phone, called Condoleezza Rice, complained about the project and got it stopped,” Thiessen said. “If she had really cared about waterboarding, don’t you think she would have picked up the phone, called Condoleezza Rice and complained about it, but she didn’t do it.”
Terrorists who have been held at Guantanamo Bay have been interrogated using only techniques found in the Army Field Manual, and they continue being used under the Obama administration, Thiessen said.
“We have gotten a lot of intelligence from them,” he said. “It’s one of the best-run, most human detention facilities on the face of this Earth, and when Barack Obama runs around saying Guantanamo’s created terrorists, he’s maligned the people who have served there.
“They should be rewarded, not punished with false statements.”
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