Convicting Alleged Terrorists Is Hard When You Torture Them

A guard tower at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. <a target="_blank" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/thenationalguard/5343896666/sizes/m/in/photostream/">Flickr/The National Guard</a>

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Gitmo detainee Majid Khan, accused of being a facilitator for alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, is reportedly in the midst of a plea deal with military prosecutors that will lighten his sentence in exchange for his testimony against other suspected terrorists. This has former Bush administration speechwriter Marc Thiessen in an absolute rage:

Giving this killer a reduced sentence is outrageous. Khan is no run-of-the-mill terrorist. He was directly subordinate to KSM and was selected by the 9/11 mastermind to conduct terrorist operations inside the United States. Khan even passed a test KSM orchestrated, which showed Khan was committed to being a suicide operative. Khan agreed to help KSM set up a front business to smuggle explosives into the United States for use against economic targets and to lead a KSM plot to blow up gas stations along the East Coast, but he was captured before he had the chance to enter the United States. He had been charged with war crimes, including murder, attempted murder, spying and providing material support for terrorism — all of which could have earned him a life sentence. Instead, he might now be released.

The Khan plea deal is a direct consequence of policies Thiessen supported. Thiessen is a huge apologist for the Bush-era CIA torture program, which was of dubious usefulness but nevertheless made it vastly more difficult to actually prosecute suspected terrorists because the evidence against them is tainted. Khan has said that he was tortured so badly that he attempted to commit suicide by chewing through his own arteries. His statements about his treatment have been censored by the US government, however, so we don’t even know all of what he says was done to him. 

Thiessen has also vocally advocated for the prosecution of Gitmo detainees in military commissions and against the transfer of any detainees to American soil for trial. Although the rules of military commissions favor the government, federal trials tend to hand out much harsher sentences. Why would Khan’s fate be any different from the trickle of detainees convicted in military commissions, several of whom are already free?

Thiessen and other conservatives who have defended the use of torture and blocked federal trials for detainees only have themselves to blame for Khan’s reduced sentence. They’ve done everything possible to ensure things would play out this way. 

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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