Case of Ahmed Omar Abu Ali
New York Times Editorial
February 24, 2005
Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, the American citizen
accused of plotting with Al Qaeda to assassinate President Bush,
will have his guilt judged in an American court. What we can say
now is that his case seems to be another demonstration of what
has gone wrong in the federal war on terror.
Mr. Abu Ali, 23, was arrested by Saudi
officials in a crackdown after terrorist bombings in Riyadh in
2003. But the Saudis have never shown much interest in actually
charging him with a crime. His parents claimed that he was being
held at the behest of the United States, and sued in court to
get him returned to this country. A federal judge has said that
"there has been at least some circumstantial evidence that
Abu Ali has been tortured during interrogations with the knowledge
of the United States."
The Justice Department says Mr. Abu Ali,
who went to Saudi Arabia to continue his religious studies, got
Al Qaeda training and money from terrorist associates to buy a
laptop computer and books. The indictment also says Mr. Abu Ali
talked about assassinating Mr. Bush either by getting "close
enough to the president to shoot him on the street" or figuring
out a way to kill him with a car bomb.
If the Justice Department believed that
Mr. Abu Ali was a serious terrorist, he should have been brought
back here long ago for trial. Instead, he became part of an unknown
number of prisoners who were swept up by American officials or
foreign governments working with Americans and questioned in the
wake of Sept. 11. Many were then held indefinitely and, in some
cases, tortured in hopes that they would provide information.
The civil liberties issues have always
been evident, but now the practical consequences are becoming
clearer as well.
In an undisciplined attempt to wring statements
out of any conceivable suspect, American officials have worked
with countries like Saudi Arabia, a nation whose attitude toward
human rights is deplorable, and Syria, which is counted by Washington
as a state sponsor of terrorism. And now these officials are faced
with the problem of what to do with these prisoners, most of whom
have proved to be no use to interrogators, but who remain on America's