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Tortured Logic

By Investor's Business Daily
January 16, 2009

Last Wednesday, the Washington Post's Bob Woodward recounted how Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said the treatment of Mohammed al-Qahtani, 9/11's 20th hijacker "met the legal definition of torture" and "that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.

"The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent," Crawford said.

There "was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge" to call it torture, she said.

Crawford, who dismissed war crimes charges against al-Qahtani in May 2008, said in the interview that she would not allow the prosecution to go forward. But, she admits, "He's a very dangerous man. What do you do with him now if you don't charge him and try him? I would be hesitant to say, 'Let him go.' "

So she has kicked the can down the road, preferring to let the Obama administration decide.

Mohammed al-Qahtani, also known as Detainee 063, is a dangerous man.

He had tried to enter the U.S. via Orlando International Airport in August 2001 when he was stopped by suspicious immigration officials. Just yards away, waiting to pick him up, was Mohammed Atta, ringleader of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

According to federal investigators, al-Qahtani was to have been the fifth hijacker on United Airlines Flight 93, the "muscle" that was to have guarded the cockpit door. Had he been there, the passenger rebellion that steered the 757 into a Pennsylvania field might have been unsuccessful. Had Atta collected him in Orlando, flight 93 might have reached its destination and plowed into the U.S. Capitol.

The ACLU took it a step further, claiming in a press release that the charges against another Guantanamo detainee, Abd al-Rahim Hussain Mohammed al-Nashiri, should be dropped because he had also been "tortured" by being waterboarded. Nashiri is a notorious al-Qaida terrorist, responsible for orchestrating the USS Cole bombing, which killed 17 American servicemen, as well as other attacks.

In a press release issued Thursday, the ACLU said:

"In response to the admission by Susan J. Crawford, the top official overseeing the Office of Military Commissions, that the reason she refused to send a detainee's case to trial is because 'we tortured (him),' (al-Nashiri's) military lawyers filed a motion late Wednesday in Guantanamo to withdraw the charges against Abd al-Rahim Hussain Mohammed al-Nashiri, who is being charged for his alleged involvement in crimes including the USS Cole bombing."

This is the old "police brutality" argument that argues that if the police are deemed to have used "excessive" force in apprehending a criminal, the way to protect the community and punish the police is to let the criminal go free to commit more crimes.

In his farewell address, President Bush rightly noted that he had kept America safe in the seven years since 9/11 and mentioned the "tough decisions" that made it possible. We have documented some of the information gained and plots foiled as a result of our decision not to coddle jihadists.

We will never know how many Americans are alive today because we made the likes of al-Qahtani, al-Nashiri and Khalid Sheik Mohammed uncomfortable. But they are and we are, and it is precisely because we have been "aggressive and persistent."

We hope the new administration ignores the sob sisters and strives to keep it that way.

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