The "terrorists to the bone" taunting by five Al Qaeda architects of the 9/11 attacks was a painful reminder that more than seven years after the murders of 3,000 Americans, the U.S. has failed abysmally in the application of justice.
Those who committed the unspeakable should no longer have the capacity to speak. They should be dead.
But no. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and his fellow conspirators are shielded by lawyers who charge the government violated civil liberties by disclosing defiant declarations the terrorists themselves filed in court. This is the world turned disgracefully on its head.
We ourselves are to blame. The Bush and Obama administrations, Congress and the courts made prosecuting the blatantly guilty virtually impossible. Instead, we have the paralysis of politics and procedural protections.
Even if it kills us. And it is killing us. It is killing U.S. troops.
Consider Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, formerly Guantanamo prisoner 008, now known by the battlefield nom de guerre Mullah Abdullah Zakir. According to The Associated Press, he landed at Guantanamo in 2001 after being nabbed, armed, in a car with a Taliban leader. He had two Casio watches similar to those used in Al Qaeda bombs.
Rasoul said he had been dragooned into the Taliban. At his Guantanamo hearings, he asserted: "I want to go back home and join my family and work in my land and help my family."
That's not quite what he did.
Returned to Afghanistan, he is believed in charge of operations against American forces in the southern part of the country. With a pass from the U.S., he is targeting Americans.
Rasoul is just the most extreme case. The Pentagon counts 18 ex-detainees as having "returned to the fight," with 43 suspected of resuming terrorism.
The U.S.' misjudgment in freeing Rasoul must be seen in context. That includes anti-war propaganda; the inability of the Bush administration and Congress to design workable due process for enemy combatants, and the judiciary's insistence on giving Gitmo detainees access to civilian courts.
Now, President Obama has ordered Gitmo shut, with no plan for dealing with 245 detainees. On Friday, he stopped calling them enemy combatants, possibly paving the way to recasting how the U.S. deals with them.
Obama has already gone down that kind of road in ordering a legal immigrant, held in a Navy brig in South Carolina, tried in civilian court.
According to the U.S., Ali Al-Marri "was directed by Al Qaeda leaders to enter the U.S. before Sept. 11, 2001, to serve as a sleeper agent, facilitate terrorist activities subsequent to Sept. 11 and explore computer hacking methods to disrupt bank records and the U.S. financial system."
Say a judge excludes evidence as improperly obtained under rough conditions. Say the government can't prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Al-Marri will plot among us.