KSM + military tribunal = 9/11 cover-up?

US Republicans, in an effort to avoid a public civilian trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged 9/11 mastermind, are turning up the heat on Attorney General Eric Holder. Why?

First, for those who need a primer on their “War on Terror” ancient history, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is “the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report sanctioned by the Bush administration.

Mohammed, accused of orchestrating a number of high-profile attacks, including the grisly decapitation murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, was charged in February 2008 with war crimes by a US military tribunal and will be summarily executed if found guilty. But there is just one problem with all of this: not even the CIA is unanimous in the belief that KSM is their man.

Robert Baer, a former CIA field officer assigned to the Middle East, and the author of “See No Evil”, told Time magazine back in 2007 that “the Administration [of George W. Bush] is trying to blame KSM for Al-Qaeda terrorism, leading us to believe we've caught the master terrorist and that Al-Qaeda, and especially the ever-elusive bin Laden, is no longer a threat to the US.”

Baer went on to say that “there is a major flaw in that marketing strategy.”

“On the face of it, KSM – as he is known inside the government – comes across as boasting, at times mentally unstable. It's also clear he is making things up. I'm told by people involved in the investigation that KSM was present during Wall Street Journal correspondent Danny Pearl's execution but was in fact not the person who killed him,” Baer writes.

The former CIA officer concludes his article by saying: “Until we hear more, the mystery of who KSM is and what he was responsible for is still a mystery.”

Well, the public has not heard more, except what has been leaked out of various CIA “black sites” and Guantanamo Bay in the form of confessions obtained via torture, which is perhaps the worst way to get reliable information.

Considering that KSM was reportedly “water-boarded” by his captors no less than 183 times in March 2003 alone makes any sort of confession taken in such a manner highly suspect [Water-boarding is a novel torture technique in which a detainee is bound and immersed in water with a cloth over his head, which gives the terrifying sensation of drowning].

Despite all this, the US Republicans are experiencing a group conniption fit at the thought of holding a public trial for KSM in Manhattan, New York, the site of the deadliest crime scene in US history.

First, let us step back and attempt to look at this somewhat rationally: Yes, KSM is being charged for the mother of all terror acts, and he certainly kept some bad company, but he is not the first terrorist to set foot on American soil for a trial without the sky falling.

The White House press secretary Bill Burton, making reference to Richard “Shoe-bomber” Reid, said it best back in January, around the time that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was going wobbly in the knees over having to host such a dirty trial on his clean streets.

“Let me start by saying that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is a murderous thug who has admitted to some of the most heinous crimes ever committed against our country,” Burton said. “The president is committed to seeing that he is brought to justice. He agrees with the attorney general's opinion in November that he and others can be litigated successfully and securing in the United States of America, just like others have – like Richard Reid. Currently our federal jails hold hundreds of convicted terrorists and the president's opinion has not changed on that.”

What’s really bothering Cheney and the Republicans?

It would be very difficult to name a former vice president who has spent more of his “retirement” lashing out at the new White House administration than Dick Cheney. Indeed, he seems to get more airtime than the current Vice President, Joe Biden. And the main reason for his ubiquitous presence is to play spokesperson for the War on Terror, together with the Bush toolbox for “dealing with terrorists.”

In just one of many outbursts since leaving office, Cheney had these words for the Obama administration following the failed Christmas day bombing attack of last year.

“As I’ve watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war,” the former vice president said. “He seems to think if he has a low key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people we won’t be at war.”

Cheney then cited the administration’s decision to try the five alleged plotters of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in a civilian rather than a military court, and to close the Guantanamo Bay prison facility, two things he is fiercely opposed to.

First, nobody would suggest that terrorism is a subject to take lightly. And it is safe to say that Barack Obama and Joe Biden, especially after eight long years of Bush fear-mongering, will never underestimate the threats that terrorists pose to people everywhere. But how do we explain the Republicans almost obsessive desire to keep the War on Terror detainees locked up forever on Guantanamo Bay, or at best to leave them at the mercy of a partial military court? In other words, shouldn’t Mr. Cheney spend more time on the golf course and let Obama do the job he was elected to do?

But for some reason, the Republicans just can’t relax. And this seems far stranger than President Obama wanting to put KSM on trial in the bright lights of a democratic-style New York City trial, as opposed to yet another medieval military tribunal where the verdict is already chisled in a tombstone. Moreover, a military tribunal for KSM will only fuel the impression that the United States remains trapped in its Bush fear-and-loathing mindset – the exact thing that Obama is desperately trying to avoid.

Finally, a transparent court case for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, which will give the man the chance to finally speak after months of swallowing water, would serve to add some legitimacy to the official version of events of 9/11, which an increasing number of people are beginning to question [presently, 1,177 architects and engineering professionals have signed a petition demanding that Congress open up a truly independent investigation of 9/11].

Yet the Republicans expect the American public to swallow the idea that the United States is unqualified to usher terrorists to a civilian trial on American soil. Think about that: The Bush administration, which was found guilty of whisking terrorists around the globe – and into the neighborhoods of some our most-trusted European allies – in their “extraordinary rendition” program suddenly lacks the organizational skills to host a half dozen, clearly worn-down criminals in a civilian court of law.

What happened to all of the guts and glory that caused the United States to pursue the militants in the first place? Will we get squeamish now that we are holding them as prisoners, albeit in a dark corner of Cuba? 

Holder in the hot seat

On Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder was on the defensive in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which leveled criticism over the planned shutdown of Gitmo detention center and the question of where the inmates should be sent for trial.

In a political nutshell, the Obama administration is arguing that its policies are more effective in fighting terrorism than those of the Bush administration. Republicans are countering that the Democrats are treating terrorists lightly by “reading them their Miranda rights” and lobbying for them to be tried in civilian, as opposed to military, courts.

The arguments being presented by the Republicans, especially when it is remembered that Richard Reid had his rights read to him by officials of the Bush administration, appear highly tenuous. For the record, Reid is currently serving a life sentence without parole in a super maximum security prison in the United States. Is Reid any more of a threat than KSM, as the Republicans, for whatever reason, want us to believe? No, he is not, but the reason for not wanting to bring him to the US for his trial is completely different.

“We are basically a nation without a viable jail,” argues Senator Lindsey Graham, who is the Republican point man in the bipartisan negotiations. “So, at the end of the day I think the decision to prosecute KSM in a civilian court was a mistake.”

Let’s rewind that comment. America is “a nation without a viable jail.” Is Graham joking? The United States, with a prison population that exceeds two million, housed in some of the most inescapable, impenetrable “super max” complexes the free world has ever devised, is suddenly “a nation without a viable jail”?

Graham continues with his groundless fear-mongering: “So to my colleagues who think that we can close Guantanamo Bay and send them to Afghanistan and the Afghan government becomes the American jailer, I think you are making a serious mistake in the War on Terror. Do you agree with that?”

“I think we have to come up with options,” Holder responded somewhat more sheepishly than the moment demanded. “I think we need to work with Congress to try to develop what those options might be.”

“This is music to my ears because I think we do also,” replied Graham.

It is truly amazing how the Republicans manhandle the Democrats even when they are the minority party.

“Civilian trials for terrorist combatants are not required by law, policy, history, treaty or plain justice,” added Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican from Alabama. “Yet this policy it appears still remains in effect or at least unsettled.”

“No final decision has been made about the forum in which Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and his co-defendants will be tried,” Holder countered. “As I said from the outset, this is a very close call. It should be clear to everyone by now there are many legal, national security and practical factors that have to be considered here.”

Democratic Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin was unsuccessful when he tried to pry an exact date from Holder on when Gitmo would be closed – something that Obama promised would happen in January of last year.

Holder said that depends in part on Congress to provide money to build another facility; an alternative prison complex is currently planned for Illinois.

“We have to have an option, and that will require congressional support [for the new prison],” he said.

Republicans were relentless in their attacks against Holder over concerns he is risking US security by placing some suspects in the federal criminal court system. This begs the question: what party is in power in the United States? Why should the Democrats cave in once again to the Republicans when they are the ones holding a comfortable majority in Congress?

At the very least, the American people desperately need some closure on the events surrounding 9/11, and it will never get it if the trial for KSM is a closed military trial. Why not let the people hear the evidence presented against this man; and let the people hear for themselves his defense. The American people, who suffered the worst from the attacks of 9/11, deserve to hear this testimony, not read about it after-the-fact. Otherwise, we will simply be entertaining a kangaroo court, better qualified for a Third World country, but certainly not for a country that prides itself on its democratic principles.

Do the right thing, President Obama: give the American people – and even Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, terrible as he may be – the court a great democracy deserves: a civilian court.

Robert Bridge, RT