The Case of Nabil al-Marabh
If you’re looking for reassurance that our government is committed to a zero tolerance policy for terrorism, this probably isn’t the story you should read: Administration Freed Terror Suspect. (Hat tip: zulubaby.)
WASHINGTON - Nabil al-Marabh, once imprisoned as the No. 27 man on the FBI’s list of must-capture terror suspects, is free again. He’s free despite telling a Jordanian informant he planned to die a martyr by driving a gasoline truck into a New York City tunnel, turning it sideways, opening its fuel valves and having an al-Qaida operative shoot a flare to ignite a massive explosion.
Free despite telling the FBI he had trained on rifles and rocket propelled grenades at militant camps in Afghanistan and after admitting he sent money to a former roommate convicted of trying to blow up a hotel in Jordan.
Free despite efforts by prosecutors in Detroit and Chicago to indict him on charges that could have kept him in prison for years. Those indictments were rejected by the Justice Department in the name of protecting intelligence. Even two judges openly questioned al-Marabh’s terror ties.
The Bush administration in January deported al-Marabh to Syria — his home and a country the U.S. government long has regarded as a sponsor of terrorism.
The quiet end to al-Marabh’s case provides a stark contrast to other cases in which the Bush administration has held suspects without lawyers as enemy combatants. It also contrasts with the terms FBI agents used to describe al-Marabh in internal documents obtained by The Associated Press.
Al-Marabh “intended to martyr himself in an attack against the United States,” an FBI agent wrote in December 2002. A footnote in al-Marabh’s deportation ruling last year added, “The FBI has been unable to rule out the possibility that al-Marabh has engaged in terrorist activity or will do so if he is not removed from the United States.”
One FBI report summarized a high-level debriefing of a Jordanian informant named Ahmed Y. Ashwas that was conducted personally by the U.S. attorney in Chicago. The informant claimed al-Marabh told him of specific terrorist plans during their time in prison while al-Marabh was serving an eight-month sentence for entering the United States illegally.
Even the federal judge who accepted al-Marabh’s plea agreement on minor immigration charges in 2002 balked. “Something about this case just makes me feel uncomfortable,” Judge Richard Arcara said in court. The Justice Department assured the judge that al-Marabh did not have terrorist ties.
A second judge who ultimately ordered al-Marabh’s deportation sided with FBI agents, federal prosecutors and Customs Service agents in the field who believed al-Marabh was tied to terrorism.
“The court finds applicant does present a danger to national security,” U.S. Immigration Judge Robert D. Newberry ruled, concluding al-Marabh was “credibly linked to elements of terrorism” and had a “propensity to lie.”
Justice spokesman Bryan Sierra said Wednesday the government has concerns about many people with suspected terror ties, including al-Marabh, but cannot effectively try them in court without giving away intelligence sources and methods.
“If the government cannot prosecute terrorism charges, another option is to remove the individual from the United States via deportation. After careful review, this was determined to be the best option available under the law to protect our national security,” he said.
The AP, of course, is spinning this to make it appear the Bush administration is inconsistent on terrorism, but if trying al-Marabh would have led to compromised intelligence it’s certainly understandable why he was deported. Who needs another Moussaoui case?
With no more information on the case than what’s in this article, I can only hope that the options were carefully weighed—because by all appearances, this is a very dangerous man.