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Monthly Archives: August 2010
Peter Finn at Washington Post:
The Obama administration has shelved the planned prosecution of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged coordinator of the Oct. 2000 suicide attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, according to a court filing.
The decision at least temporarily scuttles what was supposed to be the signature trial of a major al-Qaeda figure under a reformed system of military commissions. And it comes practically on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the attack, which killed 17 sailors and wounded dozens when a boat packed with explosives ripped a hole in the side of the warship in the port of Aden.
In a filing this week in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the Justice Department said that “no charges are either pending or contemplated with respect to al-Nashiri in the near future.”
The statement, tucked into a motion to dismiss a petition by Nashiri’s attorneys, suggests that the prospect of further military trials for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has all but ground to a halt, much as the administration’s plan to try the accused plotters of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in federal court has stalled.
Thomas Joscelyn at The Weekly Standard:
Is it taking this long to prepare for Nashiri’s trial – nearly ten years after the Cole was attacked and 17 American servicemen were killed?
That’s hard to believe. And the Post talked to some “military officials” who “said a team of prosecutors in the Nashiri case has been ready [to] go to trial for some time.” Here is the kicker:
“It’s politics at this point,” said one military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss policy. He said he thinks the administration does not want to proceed against a high-value detainee without some prospect of civilian trials for other major figures at Guantanamo Bay.
A White House official disputed this, but the Post did not offer any other good reason for the delay.
Is the Obama administration really holding up Nashiri’s trial because they want to make sure civilian trials for other detainees (i.e. the 9/11 co-conspirators) don’t lag behind?
That’s not so hard to believe, unfortunately. The administration has tried to please left-wing human rights groups by (initially, anyway) pushing forward with a federal criminal trial for top al Qaeda terrorists such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. If Nashiri’s trial by military commission moves faster than KSM’s trial by federal court, then the administration may have a PR problem.
The Post reports the usual caveat: Nashiri was waterboarded (one of only three al Qaeda terrorists who were subjected to that treatment) and this complicates things “because any incriminating statements Nashiri might have made are probably inadmissible under the 2009 Military Commissions Act.” As a result, prosecutors will be relying heavily on the statements of two Yemeni detainees, both of whom implicated Nashiri during interviews with the FBI.
But here’s the catch. When Nashiri testified before his combatant status review tribunal (CSRT) at Gitmo he made all sorts of admissions. Those concessions cannot be easily dismissed because they weren’t part of an interrogation. Nashiri was free to say whatever he wanted in response to the allegations, and he did.
Nashiri did not admit outright that he conspired with Osama bin Laden. Instead, Nashiri offered implausible explanations for his sordid history. In particular, Nashiri admitted that he met with Osama bin Laden often, but said this was in the context of his fishing business.
Andy McCarthy at The Corner:
None of this is terribly surprising. Prosecuting the Cole case by military commission sticks in the Left’s craw because it shows the incoherence of the Obama/Holder position. They want to treat the war like a crime and endow our enemies with all the rights and advantages of civilian courts; yet, they went military in the Cole case, despite the fact that there is a pending Justice Department civilian indictment addressing that attack. There can be only one explanation for that: they are afraid the case against Nashiri is weak and might not hold up under (slightly) more exacting civilian court due process. That is, the Obama/Holder position is not principled — for all their “rule of law” malarkey, they are willing to go where they have the best chance to win. But there were no military commissions when the Cole was bombed, so what is the basis for trying it militarily? Answer: the 9/11 attacks and the ensuing war . . . except the Left doesn’t accept that it’s a war and the administration wants to prosecute the 9/11 plotters in civilian court. None of it makes any sense.
Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:
Pretty unconscionable stuff, isn’t it? And a final decision on KSM has also been delayed, it is widely assumed, so that the administration need not disclose its intentions before the election. In an administration with plenty of both, this ranks near the top when it comes to hypocrisy and politicizing the administration of justice.
Before there was 9/11, there was 10/12. Do you remember? We are nearing the 10th anniversary of the USS Cole bombing that took the lives of these American heroes on Oct. 12, 2000:
Electronics Technician 1st Class Richard Costelow
Mess Management Specialist Lakina Francis
Information Systems Technician Tim Guana
Signalman Seaman Recruit Cherone Gunn
Seaman James McDaniels
Engineman 2nd Class Mark Nieto
Electronics Warfare Technician 3rd Class Ronald Owens
Seaman Recruit Lakiba Parker
Engineman Fireman Joshua Parlett
Fireman Apprentice Patrick Roy
Electronics Warfare Technician Kevin Rux
Petty Officer 3rd Class Ron Santiago
Operations Special 2nd Class Timothy Sanders
Fireman Gary Swenchonis Jr
Ensign Andrew Triplett
Seaman Apprentice Craig Wibberly
Hull Maintenance Technician 3rd Class Kenneth Clodfelter.
In another disgraceful act of the Obama Department of Social Justice, the Washington Post reports that the feds are “shelving” prosecution of a major USS Cole bombing suspect at Gitmo. Why? Because of bad optics.
Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit
Frank Newport at Gallup:
Republicans lead by 51% to 41% among registered voters in Gallup weekly tracking of 2010 congressional voting preferences. The 10-percentage-point lead is the GOP’s largest so far this year and is its largest in Gallup’s history of tracking the midterm generic ballot for Congress.
Chris Good at The Atlantic:
Gallup’s tracking goes back to 1950; the largest lead was 32 percentage points in favor of Democrats in July 1974, before Richard Nixon resigned over Watergate.
Are the new numbers evidence of a galvanized GOP base in already-conservative districts or a general Republicanizing of the country? Tough to know, but probably some (or a lot) of both
To put this in perspective, until this month, the biggest lead the GOP had held in the history of Gallup’s polling was … five points. Why the eeyorism, then? Well, (a) Rasmussen has new generic ballot numbers out today too and the GOP’s actually lost a few points since last week, driving them down to their smallest lead since mid-July. Not sure how to square that with Gallup, especially since Ras polls likely voters and Gallup polls registered voters. The enthusiasm gap should mean a bigger spread among the former than the latter (and until today, it has), and if Gallup’s numbers are merely a reaction to last week’s dismal economic news, it’s surpassingly strange that the same reaction isn’t showing up in Rasmussen. Also, (b) Gallup’s generic-ballot polling has already produced one freaky outlier this summer. Granted, today’s numbers are more credible because they’re part of a trend, but read this Jay Cost piece about how bouncy Gallup’s numbers have historically been at times. Hmmmm.
Neil Stevens at Redstate:
This Gallup result is so large, I had to see what it shows in the Swingometer. As always, I boil it down to two party results. In 2008 we had a 56 D – 44 R split, and this Gallup simplifies to a 45 D – 55 R split. So the swing is from a D+12 to an R+10, or a 22 point swing.
So right now, that means Gallup of all polls, using Registered Voters, is projecting in the Swingometer a 60 seat Republican gain for a 238 R-197 D majority. The last time an election took the Democrats that low was the election of 1946, saith Wikipedia. Election night in 2004 took them to 202 for the second lowest.
Rasmussen today, by contrast, shows only a 20 point swing, a 57 seat Republican gain, and a 235 R – 200 D majority, still lower than an election since Truman has taken the House Democrats. If I then take the mean of these two and double weight the Rasmussen Likely Voter poll, I get R+58, the new projection.
Paul Mirengoff at Powerline:
The “enthusiasm gap” is even more pronounced. Gallup finds that Republicans are now twice as likely as Democrats to be “very” enthusiastic about voting come November, the largest such advantage of the year.
I’m obliged to add that anything can happen during the next two months. But more than any old thing will be required if the Democrats are to avoid a crushing defeat at the end of those two months.
John McCormack at The Weekly Standard
The biggest problem for the Democrats is that there seem to be very few things that can happen between now and Election Day that can reverse the Republican momentum. The latest round of economic reports seem to establish fairly clearly that the economy is likely to remain flat or depressed during that time period and I doubt we’ll be getting any good news out of the jobs report that will be released this coming Friday, and it is primarily the economy that is driving voter anger at this point in time. Outside of some massive scandal that hurts Republicans or an international crisis that causes the public to rally around the President, both of which are unlikely, the pattern we’re in now is likely to be the one we’re in on Election Day. That’s bad news if you’re a Democrat.
UPDATE: Nate Silver at NYT
Noam Scheiber at TNR
Jim Antle at The American Spectator
Gov. Chris Christie fired state education commissioner Bret Schundler this morning after Schundler refused to resign in the wake of the controversy over the state’s loss of up to $400 million in federal school funding.
“I was extremely disappointed to learn that the videotape of the Race to the Top presentation was not consistent with the information provided to me,” Christie said in a press release. “As a result, I ordered an end to Bret Schundler’s service as New Jersey’s Education Commissioner and as a member of my administration.”
A deputy commissioner will be named acting commissioner while the governor searches for the next person to fill the $141,000-a-year position, two officials briefed on the situation said.
Rich Bagger, Christie’s chief of staff, asked Schundler to resign on Thursday evening because he “misled” the governor and senior staff about what happened during a presentation in Washington, D.C., the officials said.
On Wednesday, Christie publicly said Schundler had tried to give the correct information to a bungled question during the presentation, but video from the U.S. Department of Education released Thursday proved that did not happen.
John McCormack at The Weekly Standard:
Upon posting the YouTube clip yesterday of a Chris Christie press conference, I remarked how Christie had impressively turned the tables on an issue that could have embarrassed him. A clerical error by his education department–failing to list 2008-2009 funding levels–resulted in the loss of $400 million in federal education funding. Why, Christie asked, didn’t an Obama administration bureaucrat just pick up the phone and ask New Jersey’s education department for the right number?
Well, NJ.com reports, it turns out the feds asked Christie’s education director for the number in person, and he failed to correct the application
Christie had relied on Schundler’s insistence that his team had provided the data to the Obama administration to blast the White House for being too rigid about paperwork rather than relying on the data. The Department of Education responded by publishing the review video, putting Christie in a tough spot. He had little choice but to give a strong reaction to the revelation.
Not that Schundler didn’t deserve it, if the evidence is complete. Not only did his team botch the presentation, he apparently deceived his boss about the situation rather than just admit to the error. Executives can deal with failure, but deception is another thing entirely. If an executive can’t trust his staff, then he or she has to find replacements more worthy of trust. That’s probably more true in politics than in the private sector, but it’s true enough in all arenas to know that Schundler couldn’t expect to keep his job after this.
By taking action, Christie can minimize the embarrassment, but it’s not going to be an overall plus for him; it will just limit the damage and bring the incident to a swift conclusion.
The Star-Ledger further explains,
Ousted state Education Commissioner Bret Schundler today said he asked Gov. Chris Christie to be fired from the work he considered his “life’s dream,” rather than resign, so he could receive unemployment benefits to pay his bills.
Apparently Schundler, “once hailed as a rising star in conservative circles,” has gained a new appreciation for taking advantage of federal assistance.
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:
Back in the day Brett Schundler was the rising star of the NJ GOP, making his mark as the uber-conservative Mayor heavily Democratic Jersey City. He made his name in the ‘cut every benefit cut every everything’ wing of the party.
But today when Gov. Christie (R) asked him for his resignation as state Ed Commissioner result of errors and misrepresentations from Schundler in a matter costing the state $400 million in federal “Race to the Top” money he asked if he could be fired instead so he could collect unemployment benefits.
David Dayen at Firedoglake:
Schundler is the former mayor of Jersey City (a Democratic city) and a candidate for Governor in 2001.
Christie does hold Schundler accountable for what he calls “lying to me,” but hasn’t held himself accountable for publicly siding with Schundler before getting independent verification of the facts. As the Star-Ledger editorial board says, “Schundler may not be at fault in this latest episode. The governor is the one who made the false claim.”
But accountability doesn’t reach to the top, at least not in New Jersey.
Richard Esposito, Christine Brouwer and Brian Ross at ABC News:
Two men taken off a Chicago-to-Amsterdam United Airlines flight in the Netherlands have been charged by Dutch police with “preparation of a terrorist attack,” U.S. law enforcement officials tell ABC News.
U.S. officials said the two appeared to be travelling with what were termed “mock bombs” in their luggage. “This was almost certainly a dry run, a test,” said one senior law enforcement official.
A spokesman for the Dutch public prosecutor, Ernst Koelman, confirmed the two men were arrested this morning and said “the investigation is ongoing.” He said the arrests were made “at the request of American authorities.”
Frank James at NPR:
NPR’s Carrie Johnson has a bit more information from law enforcement officials on the detention of the two men in Amsterdam from a United Airlines flight from Chicago:
“One of the men is from Yemen. Another man who joined him lives in the Detroit area.
Officials say the Yemeni man taped cell phones, watches and other items together in his suitcase. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he had a dangerous intent.
Under Dutch law, the men can be detained while the investigation continues.
She also passes along the following statement from U.S. law enforcement:
“Suspicious items were located in checked luggage associated with two passengers on United Flight 908 from Chicago O’Hare to Amsterdam last night. The items were not deemed to be dangerous in and of themselves, and as we share information with our international partners, Dutch authorities were notified of the suspicious items. This matter continues to be under investigation.”
The test involved traveling separately to Chicago’s O’Hare airport with a fake bomb or two in a suitcase (not to mention a box cutter and three large knives). The suitcase was then checked onto a flight to Dulles, with connecting flights to Dubai, and finally Yemen. The two suspects having met up at O’Hare, boarded a flight to Amsterdam instead. The luggage with the fake bombs was recovered at Dulles when it was realized that the suspect who checked it had not actually boarded the flight from Chicago to Dulles. The Chicago to Amsterdam flight being rather long, there was at least time to notify the Dutch who were happy to arrest the men upon landing. I assume the fly team has already been dispatched to Schiphol to collect these gentlemen and return them to the USA. The fake bombs were first discovered at the airport in Birmingham, where al-Soofi boarded his flight to O’Hare. He was allowed to proceed, suggesting either incompetence or brilliance on the part of federal officials – I’m not sure which. In addition to the objects in his luggage he was carrying $7,000 in cash and arrived at the airport wearing bulky clothing out of season…
John Schulenburg at Gateway Pundit:
What’s shocking about this is that before he even got to Chicago he was stopped in Alabama for “further screening” because of “bulky clothing” and then upon further investigation of his checked baggage, they found all sorts of shady things including 7 grand in cash, a cell phone taped to a Pepto-Bismol bottle, three cell phones taped together, several watches taped together, a box cutter and three large knives.
Daniel Foster at The Corner
When they saw the cell phone taped to the Pepto Bismol bottle, did they … run a test to make sure it was Pepto in there or did they just wave it through? And if they were so concerned about the contents that him checking his luggage on one flight and boarding another in Chicago triggered a panic response, why on earth did they let him fly with that bag at all? It’s not like a jihadi would refuse to remotely detonate a suitcase in the cargo hold just because he’s aboard the same plane.
Basically, it sounds like this guy wanted to see just how many red flags he could send up and still be allowed to board an intercontinental flight. Answer: Quite a few, as it turns out. Which was also true of Flight 253, of course, another attempted terror attack that involved a bomber trained in … Yemen, the new number-one hot spot of international terrorism. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: Justin Elliott at Salon