Bin Laden threatens US over alleged 9/11 plotter

Osama bin Laden threatened in a new message (click here for full text) released Thursday 25 March to kill any Americans al-Qaida captures if the U.S. executes the self-professed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks or other al-Qaida suspects.

In the 74-second audiotape aired on Al-Jazeera television, the al-Qaida leader explicitly mentions Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was captured in Pakistan in 2003. He is the most senior al-Qaida operative in U.S. custody and is currently detained at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In 2008, the U.S. charged Mohammed with murder and war crimes in connection with the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. Pentagon officials have said they will seek the death penalty for him. Four of his fellow plotters are also in custody.

“The White House has expressed its desire to execute them. The day America makes that decision will be the day it has issued a death sentence for any one of you that is taken captive,” Bin Laden said, addressing Americans.

After his March 2003 capture in Pakistan, Mohammed described himself as the architect of numerous terrorism plots and even claimed that “with my blessed right hand,” he had decapitated Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Pearl was found beheaded in Pakistan in 2002.

Mohammed, appearing in June 2008 for the first time since his capture five years earlier, said he would welcome becoming a “martyr” after a judge warned him that he faces the death penalty for his confessed role as mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The U.S. is still considering whether to put Mohammed and the four fellow plotters on military tribunal. The Obama administration is also looking into recommendations for civilian trials, and is expected to announce a decision soon.

Bin Laden also said President Barack Obama is following in the footsteps of his predecessor George W. Bush by escalating the war in Afghanistan, being “unjust” to al-Qaida prisoners and supporting Israel in its occupation of Palestinian land.

“The politicians of the White House were and still are wronging us, especially by supporting Israel and occupying our land in Palestine. They think that America, behind oceans, is safe from the wrath of the oppressed, until the reaction was loud and strong in your homeland,” he said of the Sept. 11 attacks. “Equal treatment is only fair. War is a back-and-forth.”

The prospect of giving Mohammed and the four fellow plotters a civilian trial in New York City has led to protests by residents and relatives of Sept. 11 victims who fear that such a move could again make the city a terrorism target and that they should instead face a military trial.

FBI making virtual reality copy of Bagram prison

The FBI will use high-tech tools to produce a virtual recreation of the prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, according to a new court filing.

“The Operational Site Survey will involve the creation of an interactive digital virtual tour of all areas of the [Bagram Theater Internment Facility,] where detainees were held, interrogated, or otherwise present during their detention at the BTIF,” the Justice Department and detainee lawyers said in an agreement or “stipulation,” filed in federal court in Washington on 24 March.

“The Government has already dispatched an Evidence Response Team from the Evidence Response Team Unit of the FBI’s Laboratory Division to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, to collect, among other things, the following types of data for purposes of generating the interactive digital virtual tour: GPS data; laser scanning; total station survey data; spherical photography; still photography; manual measurements; blueprints and source data; and aerial lidar and imagery,” the stipulation says.

Starting last November, prisoners were moved out of the BTIF and to a new US-designed facility elsewhere at Bagram. The U.S. military wants to demolish the BTIF, but detainees’ lawyers opposed that on grounds that razing the facility could destroy evidence of abuse there. The stipulation suggests that the prisoners’ lawyers are satisfied that the re-creation will be adequate to help establish whatever misconduct may have taken place there.

The new Shamali prison is supposed to be transferred to Afghan control later this year along with most, but not all, of the prisoners from BTIF. However, the White House is considering keeping a U.S. detention facility at Bagram that could take in new prisoners and perhaps keep them beyond the reach of U.S. courts.

DOJ Documents 400 Alleged Civilian Terrorist Trials since 9/11

The National Security Division’s International Terrorism and Terrorism-Related  Statistics Chart tracks convictions resulting from international  terrorism investigations conducted since September 11, 2001, in the U.S. including  investigations of terrorist acts planned or committed outside the  territorial jurisdiction of the United States over which Federal  criminal jurisdiction exists and those within the United States  involving international terrorists and terrorist groups. Convictions  listed on the chart involve the use of a variety of Federal criminal  statutes available to prevent, disrupt, and punish international terrorism and related criminal activity. The  convictions are the product of the Department’s aggressive, consistent,  and coordinated national enforcement effort with respect to  international terrorism that was undertaken after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The release of the list, which shows that more than 400 people have been convicted of international terrorism or terror-related offenses in such courts since Sept. 11, 2001, is the latest salvo in a political battle over where to try terrorism suspects, according to the WSJ.