Last night, just hours after he took the oath of office, Obama ordered Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to direct the chief prosecutor of the Office of Military Commissions to seek a continuance of 120 days for any case that has been referred to the office of military commissions and to cease referring any new cases for prosecution. This morning, military judges hearing the cases of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-confessed mastermind of 9/11, and his co-conspirators, as well as a different judge hearing the case of Canadian detainee Omar Khadr, granted the prosecution's motion. According to the motion filed by the prosecutors, the continuance was requested "in order to provide the administration sufficient time to conduct a review of detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to evaluate the cases of detainees not approved for release or transfer to determine whether prosecution may be warranted for any offenses those detainees may have committed, and to determine which forum best suits any future prosecution."Is it even possible to grasp the enormity of these fateful decisions? to understand the dire implications for our future? Let's just focus our attention for a moment on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Just who is he and how important is he in our attempts to prosecute this Global War on Terror?
According to the 9/11 Commission Report he was "the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks". He is also thought to have had, or has confessed to, a role in many of the most significant terrorist plots over the last twenty years, including the World Trade Center 1993 bombings, the Operation Bojinka plot, an aborted 2002 attack on Los Angeles' U.S. Bank Tower, the Bali nightclub bombings, the failed bombing of American Airlines Flight 63, the Millennium Plot, and the murder of Daniel Pearl.
Think you already know all about Sheikh Khalid's terrorist activities? You might just be surprised. Here is what he has confessed to (so far):
The February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City A failed "shoe bomber" operation The October 2002 attack in Kuwait The nightclub bombing in Bali, Indonesia A plan for a "second wave" of attacks on major U.S. landmarks to be set in the spring or summer of 2002 after the 9/11 attacks, which includes more hijackings of commercial airlines and having them flown into various buildings in the U.S. including the Library Tower in Los Angeles , the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Columbia Center in Seattle and the Empire State Building in New York Plots to attack oil tankers and U.S. naval ships in the Straits of Hormuz, the Straits of Gibraltar and in Singapore A plan to blow up the Panama Canal Plans to assassinate Jimmy Carter [Yes, that's right, even Jimmy Carter] A plot to blow up suspension bridges in New York City A plan to destroy the Sears Tower in Chicago with burning fuel trucks Plans to "destroy" Heathrow Airport, Canary Wharf and Big Ben in London A planned attack on "many" nightclubs in Thailand A plot targeting the New York Stock Exchange and other U.S. financial targets
A plan to destroy buildings in Eilat, Israel Plans to destroy U.S. embassies in Indonesia, Australia and Japan in 2002. Plots to destroy Israeli embassies in India, Azerbaijan, the Philippines and Australia Surveying and financing an attack on an Israeli El-Al flight from Bangkok Sending several "mujahideen" into Israel to survey "strategic targets" with the intention of attacking them The November 2002 suicide bombing of a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya The failed attempt to shoot down an Israeli passenger jet leaving Mombasa airport in Kenya Plans to attack U.S. targets in South Korea Providing financial support for a plan to attack U.S., British and Jewish targets in Turkey Surveillance of U.S. nuclear power plants in order to attack them A plot to attack NATO's headquarters in Europe Planning and surveillance in a 1995 plan (the "Bojinka Operation") tobomb 12 American passenger jets The planned assassination attempt against then-U.S. President Bill Clinton during a mid-1990s trip to the Philippines. [Sorry Bill, no pass for Democrats] "Shared responsibility" for a plot to kill Pope John Paul II Plans to assassinate Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf An attempt to attack a U.S. oil company in Sumatra, Indonesia, "owned by the Jewish former [U.S.] Secretary of State Henry Kissinger" The beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl
Of course, not everyone is pleased with the circumstances of poor Khalid's incarceration.
Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Center for Constitutional Rights, and US military defense lawyers have criticised the military commissions for lacking necessary rights for a fair trial. Critics generally argue for a trial either in a civilian federal court as a common criminal suspect, or by court martial as a prisoner under the Geneva Conventions.