Military Commission for Terrorist Mastermind Begins
11:26 AM, Nov 9, 2011 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
The trial by military commission of top al Qaeda operative Abd al Rahim al Nashiri is set to commence today at Guantanamo. Nashiri’s time in U.S. detention has been controversial because he was one of only three senior terrorists waterboarded by the CIA. Nashiri was subjected to other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) as well.
There is no material dispute over Nashiri’s al Qaeda role. Nashiri’s claim before a Guantanamo tribunal that he was merely pursuing various fishing endeavors with the assistance of Osama bin Laden is laughable. Nashiri’s style of fishing actually involved ramming explosives-laden boats into U.S. warships and oil tankers. The failed attack on the USS The Sullivans in January 2000, the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000, and the attack on the merchant vessel Limburg in October 2002 were all masterminded by Nashiri.
But Nashiri’s plotting did not end there, according to a leaked Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) threat assessment, as well as other sources.
Nashiri was exploring a range of possible attacks when he was captured in 2002. How many of these plots were in the advanced stages is uncertain. But with an experienced terrorist like Nashiri at the helm we can be certain at least some of them would have progressed had Nashiri remained free.
The leaked JTF-GTMO threat assessment for Nashiri, dated December 8, 2006, describes him as “one of al Qaeda’s most skilled, capable, prolific operational coordinators” with a “proven ability to plan and carry out attacks against the US, its interests and allies.” Nashiri is “linked to as many as a dozen plots to attack US and western interests.”
JTF-GTMO provided this summary of Nashiri’s plotting:
Other targets are mentioned in the leaked file, too, including the UK embassy in Sanaa, Yemen and a “major petroleum facility” in Saudi Arabia. Some of these plots had apparently been halted, including the planned attack in the Strait of Hormuz.
When Nashiri was first captured, the CIA turned its attention to uncovering the details of Nashiri’s extensive plotting. An investigation by the CIA’s inspector general, who was no apologist for the EIT program, found that Nashiri did in fact give up actionable intelligence. The IG report reads:
None of Nashiri’s plots, according to the IG, appear to have been “imminent” at the time of his capture. Then again, this is a myopic way of viewing Nashiri’s plotting. Al Qaeda cells often have more than one plot in the works at any given time. A plot becomes “imminent” quickly. In Nashiri’s case, his minions had already performed surveillance on several possible targets, researched the logistics of the proposed attacks, and even acquired explosives.
It was only a matter of time until Nashiri attempted another attack, even if we cannot be sure which target would have been next.
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