The USS Cole was attacked in the Yemeni Port of Aden, on October 12, 2000. 17 sailors died and 39 more were injured in the suicide attack. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack and Jamal al-Badawi was detained just days later. His confession to recruiting the other bombers led to several arrests including Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Since then al-Badawi has escaped from Yemeni prisons twice along with others convicted for the Cole bombing. He last surrendered to Yemeni authorities as part of an agreement with al-Qaeda militants, although he was released in return for a pledge not to engage in any violent or al-Qaeda related activity. Ten years later none of the defendants convicted in Yemen of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole remain in prison.
Two men caught outside of Yemen remain at Guantanamo Bay. One of them is the so called mastermind of the bombing and has been in detained since 2002, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. This week we learned that the Obama administration has again delayed his military tribunal commission.
What’s the hold up?
In 2004, a Yemeni Court sentenced him to death in absentia for his role in the bombing of the USS Cole. But in January of 2009 the administration halted all referrals for trial in front of a military commission. There was hope in November of 2009 that the trials would move forward when Eric Holder said, “With regard to the Cole bombing, that was an attack on a United States warship, and that, I think, is appropriately placed into the military commission setting,”
Since then, there have been no proceedings while the victim’s families and America wait for justice. Some are speculating that the problem is al-Nashiri was water boarded and under the 2009 Military Commissions Act evidence obtained through torture or cruel, inhuman treatment is prohibited.
Still the evidence is overwhelming, the FBI has statements from two Yemeni detainees who that have implicated Nashiri during an interview. They also have Nashiri’s own words, after he was held for an undisclosed amount of time by the CIA in Thailand; he was transferred to Guantanamo in 2007. There before a combatant status review which is not an interrogation he explained his history with Osama Bin Laden and that he knew the people who plotted the Cole attack.
Is it possible that politics are holding up the trials? The left has pushed for federal civilian trails and the administration has obliged by reforming the military tribunals and looking for sites to hold a trial for Khalid Sheikh Muhammed. This plan has largely been unpopular for the President and still leaves him with the Gitmo problem. Would the president delay further military tribunals and their possible success so he can further advance the left’s agenda of trying terrorist in civilian courts?