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KSM’s Prison Communiqués: Enemy Combatants Back to Being Criminal Defendants

More importantly, from the federal prison where he was (and is) serving the life sentence imposed after his terrorism convictions, the “Blind Sheikh,” Omar Abdel Rahman, called for attacks against the United States. Later, Osama bin Laden publicly credited him with issuing the “fatwa” (the edict under Islamic law) that approved the 9/11 attacks. You read that correctly: the 9/11 attacks were pre-approved by a fatwa issued from federal prison. Subsequently, the Blind Shiekh’s lawyer, Lynne Stewart, was convicted of material support to terrorism for transmitting his messages to his Egyptian terrorist organization (Gama’at al-Islamia or “the Islamic Group”).

In March 2005, NBC News reported that the jihadists convicted of bombing the World Trade Center in 1993, despite being incarcerated in the “super-max” high-security federal prison in Colorado, had been permitted to correspond with a terror cell in Madrid -- and one even got a letter to al-Quds, a popular Arabic newspaper, proclaiming, “Osama bin Laden is my hero of this generation.” Nice vetting job, no? Spanish officials found that the letters from the imprisoned American terrorists were used to recruit jihadists in Spain, and that people on the receiving end of the correspondence were complicit in acts of terrorism.

Remarkably, opponents of military commissions like Mr. Swift (my aforementioned co-guest on The Kelly File) contend that the public dissemination of KSM’s meanderings would not have happened if, as the antiwar Left has demanded and as the Obama Justice Department desired, he and other enemy combatants were imprisoned and prosecuted in the civilian federal court system. Note that the examples I’ve cited all involve terrorists convicted in civilian court and incarcerated in the high-security precincts of the civilian prison system. The pre-clearance analysis of terrorist correspondence there is no better than it is at Gitmo.

Still, the revelation that jihadist correspondence is being enabled at Gitmo is worse because it further confirms a governmental retreat from the post-9/11 war paradigm. In the 2008, then-candidate Obama campaigned against this Bush-era counterterrorism strategy; once in office, however, he found that it was popular -- the general public, unlike the Lawyer Left, did not want Gitmo closed, did not want KSM & Co. given the gold-plated due process of civilian court, did not want alien terrorists trying to kill Americans given American constitutional rights, and did not want to go back to the failed Clinton approach of fighting jihadist bombs with subpoenas. Thus, knowing the 2012 election was in front of him, President Obama left almost all of President Bush’s strategy intact.

Now, it is being gradually dismantled. Gitmo is being emptied by transferring terrorists back to countries where they can return to violent, anti-Western jihad. American combat forces, already suicidally hamstrung by unconscionable rules of engagement, are being withdrawn from Afghanistan even as the Taliban moves back in. Al Qaeda is ascendant in Iraq and across North Africa. And, while KSM’s military commission appears to be headed to trial (I’ll believe it when I see it), other 9/11 prosecutions have been shifted to federal court in Manhattan. The Left has substantially succeeded in eviscerating the distinction between enemy combatants and criminal defendants.

When you go back to pre-9/11 methods, you are asking for pre-9/11 results. And on that score, the jihad is known to be very accommodating.