Charges Referred Against Alleged U.S.S. Cole Bomber

The U.S.S. Cole, after the 2000 bombing.<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:INTEL-COGNITIVE-Cole.jpg">Wikimedia Commons</a>

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


Almost ten years since he was captured, the alleged mastermind of the U.S.S. Cole bombing is closer to getting a trial.

The Pentagon announced Wednesday afternoon that it’s going forward with military commissions charges against Abd Al Rahim Hussayn Muhammad Al Nashiri, accused of planning of the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen, which killed 17 American sailors. Military prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, which will require a unanimous jury verdict, as opposed to the two-thirds majority needed in non-capital cases.

What’s strange is that Nashiri is being charged in a military commission at all. Attorney General Eric Holder originally said that the attack on the Cole “was an attack on a United States warship, and that, I think, is appropriately placed into the military commissions setting.” While the attack occurred after Osama bin Laden’s declaration of war on the United States, it took place prior to the 9/11 attacks, and therefore before the military commissions system was created. The case was investigated as a law enforcement matter—in fact, last year, one of the FBI investigators on the Cole case, Ali Soufan, chastised the Bush administration for not prosecuting Nashiri earlier.

While such obstacles were not unexpected, what surprised us was the lack of support from home. No one in the Clinton White House seemed to care about the case. We had hoped that the George W. Bush administration would be better, but except for Robert Mueller, the director of the F.B.I., its top officials soon sidelined the case; they considered it, according to Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, “stale.” Even the families of the sailors were denied meetings with the White House, a disgrace that ended only when President Obama took office—and a precedent I hope the administration maintains.

Nashiri’s prosecution by military commission may simply be a consequence of his treatment at the hands of American authorities. Nashiri was one of three terror detainees who were waterboarded. He was also subjected to other so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” including mock executions involving a gun and a power drill. Despite the fact that Nashiri’s treatment appears to fall outside even the “legal” enhanced interrogation guidelines authorized by the Bush administration, the Obama administration, which conducted an investigation into interrogations that went beyond those guidelines, decided against filing any charges related to Nashiri’s treatment. Since the Obama administration said their intention was to try Nashiri by military commission even before Congress placed restrictions on its ability to transfer Gitmo detainees to the US for trial, it’s a good bet that the reason he’s being tried by military commission has more to do with the fact that the case against him has been marred by torture.

There’s no guarantee of course, that given his past treatment, prosecution by military commission will be any easier. During the trial of former Gitmo detainee Ahmed Ghailani for his involvement in the bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote that even in a military commission, the Constitution would likely bar evidence gained through coercive means.

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate