Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab aka the underpants bomber pleaded guilty to all charges against him, the day after his trial in our civilian court system started.
Abdulmutallab, who is linked to al Qaeda, stood at a podium and spoke in a firm but calm and quiet voice, telling the court he was fulfilling a “religious duty” and participating in an act of jihad against the United States by trying to bring down the plane. He was unapologetic as he said his attack was meant to avenge Muslim civilians killed in Yemen, Afghanistan and elsewhere by the United States.
“The U.S. should be warned that if they continue to kill and support those who kill innocent Muslims, then the U.S. should await a great calamity … or God will strike them directly,” he said.
“If you laugh at us now, we will laugh at you later.”
This happened without the torture that Bush, Cheney and their lackeys are so proud of. This happened in a civilian court, where the defendant had the rights that go with a civilized justice system.
This is not the only terrorism case we have managed prosecute within our legal system. It isn’t even the only terrorism case we have tried since 9/11.
As noted in an NPR report in 2010:
In an interview Sunday on CBS, President Obama said the Bush administration “prosecuted 190 folks in these Article 3 courts and got convictions.”
His number matches a report that the group Human Rights First issued in July. “We specifically looked at self-described Islamic or jihadist terrorists,” says Human Rights First Senior Associate Daphne Eviatar. “So these are people who are generally linked in some way to al-Qaida or the Taliban.”
In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in November, Holder said, “There are more than 300 convicted international and domestic terrorists currently in Bureau of Prisons custody.”
A study on the question shows that, in reality, we have tried over 500 terrorism cases in the United States, and that is after 9/11,
“If you had every single terrorism-related prosecution since 9/11 and you wanted to know the convictions, there would be 523,” says the center’s director, Karen Greenberg.
Her database includes everything from the smallest terrorism-related passport violation to the case against Sept. 11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui. “The point,” Greenberg says, “is to have a database that has everything in it so that you can crunch for all of the different things, and that’s what we do.”
Now I grant that we can question whether the number is 190, 300 or 523. The point is we have tried and successfully convicted terrorists within our civilian criminal court system, and even with all those pesky rights the Republicans complain about.
This case is the most recent confirmation that our court system is more than equipped to prosecute terrorism suspects.
Of course, one could point to Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani as an example of how vulnerable we are to the system “failing” to convict these individuals. The problem with that argument is that torture, another Republican policy, played a big role in gutting the government’s case against Ghailani.
In the ruling, the judge, Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court in Manhattan, barred prosecutors from using an important witness against Mr. Ghailani because the government had learned about the man through Mr. Ghailani’s interrogation while he was in C.I.A. custody, where his lawyers say he was tortured.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had all the rights afforded to any individual within our criminal justice system. He had the right to counsel. He had the right to see the evidence the state has against him. He had the right to a jury trial in which the state would have the burden of proof. Yet, he pled guilty, perhaps because he saw that the case against him was compelling. Perhaps he knew he was guilty. The point is, this is the most recent example of our civilian system’s ability to put terrorists behind bars. In this case, we didn’t have to go to trial. The Republicans should be jumping for joy, since justice in this case, will be even cheaper than had this individual been tortured and subsequently tried at Guantanamo Bay. Incidentally, the Republicans wanted this man to be tried at the Guantanamo Military Tribunal.
This outcome is the latest example that we can do justice in a manner consistent with our values and we can do it without utilizing the “enhanced interrogation” techniques that Dick Cheney is so proud of.