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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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

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Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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