HH: Joined now again by Andrew C. McCarthy, of course prosecutor of the Blind Sheik, author of Willful Blindness and many other important books in jihadism and Islamist fanaticism, Andrew McCarthy, of course, a columnist as well for PJ Media and the National Review Foundation. Andrew, I’ve been leaning on you a lot this week. Thank you for being so generous with your time. Your reactions on the last 48 hours of development and the manhunt underway right now?
AM: Well you know, it’s one thing to think that something like this is likely to happen because our guard isn’t up like it ought to be. It’s quite something else when it actually happens. And you know, I think it’s, I am more steeped in this stuff than I’d like to be, and it’s still, and I’ve been through it a number of times up close, and it’s still shocking to me when it happens.
HH: When you see with the experienced eyes that you have the last 24 hours, the publication of the pictures, which you told us a couple of days ago means that they were at a dead end, the sudden breaking loose of all of this, do you sense that there are more than these two brothers? Or would you put your instincts on the side of it just being a cell of two?
AM: Well, if I were in charge of investigating it, Hugh, my operating theory would be that it’s in the realm of strong possibility that they have co-conspirators, because I think that’s what you have to think. In national security matters, I think if there’s a bounce of the ball, it has to go in the direction of more caution, and then you hope that you’re pleasantly surprised. But you know, without having to be responsible and make those kind of calls, I have to think that if they had any kind of a substantial network, it would have been easier for them to get away in the period of time they had between the time the bombing happened and now, when we’ve learned about them. Now it’s possible, we don’t really have a read on these guys quite yet, that there’s something in their mental makeup that made them stick around. But I have to think that if they were part of a network, that they would have made better efforts to get away, because after all, this was not a suicide attack. These were guys who obviously planned to live to fight another day.
HH: And did fight last night, and may continue to fight today. I am curious is the reactions of their families and friends mirror those of the conspirators in the first bombing attempt of the World Trade Center, which you prosecuted?
AM: You know, it’s interesting, Hugh. I heard a lot of these folks come forward today who knew them, and who expressed surprise. There is, I think the uncle who’s come out and called them a pair of losers…
AM: And he’s obviously a very different take on them. But I must say, I was brought back to our trial, which was in 1995, nine months long, and featured a two and a half month defense case where we had numerous people come in and say you know, these guys are the quietest, sweetest, most polite, nicest, most pro-Western, pro-American guys you ever met, and that was after our jury had spent six months watching them mix explosives on tape, and rant and rave about, you know, killing this one and killing that one, and high powered weaponry around. So you know, I think the capacity of people who are, especially family members and close friends and associates, either to affirmatively lie, or more likely, I think, to delude themselves about the nature of these kinds of people, is, it’s quite a capacity.
HH: Andrew McCarthy, I began this hour talking to John Burns, the London Bureau Chief of the New York Times about how MI5 has successfully interdicted so many home grown terrorists in sudden jihad syndrome over there. But he also noted they continue to up the amount of resources put into MI5 and MI6. Do you think we’re keeping pace with the threat in the United States in the amount of serious devotion of dollars and personnel to finding and preventing domestic terrorism?
AM: I think we have an incredible devotion of dollars and personnel, Hugh, but I do think that if you have an ideological threat, and you make it impossible for the people who have to protect the country to grapple with the ideology in a serious way, then in many ways, it really doesn’t matter how much money you throw at it. So I think that we could reduce the amount of money that we spend on it, but deal with it, you know, but come to grips with the fact that this is an ideological threat that not only has to be understood, it has to be challenged in the light of day and marginalized. And if we don’t do that, then it really doesn’t matter how much money we spend on this, because we’re doing it with our eyes closed.
HH: Well, talk a little bit about this, because one of the pieces of the puzzle that I have not yet seen is any indication of where radicalism entered into their development. There is no, you know, the hooked radical sheik of London. There is no Blind Sheik in New Jersey. I haven’t yet seen anyone refer to a radicalizing agent in their life. Maybe that will turn up eventually. But maybe, it may be that one isn’t necessary in the age of the internet as we saw with al-Awlaki. How do you combat what is in essence a freely, open-source radicalism?
AM: Yeah, well a couple of things about that. You’re quite right that in this communication age, the ideology is so pervasively available, that in many ways, you don’t need a mediating agent like al Qaeda or a radical jurist of Shariah to inspire these characters to do hateful things, although I think they generally do need training to be efficient. We have a lot of people who want to commit a lot of spectacular acts of terrorism who aren’t capable of it, thank God. It’s the guys who are trained who tend to be more efficient. But I do think, Hugh, that in the case of these guys, we’re already seeing emerge that there are these sorts of influences. They, one of them appears to have been a follower of this Shiek Mohammed Feiz. Steve Emerson has put out on his site, the Investigative Project On Terrorism, and a couple of places that I’ve either appeared with him or heard him speak, a lot of information that they’re coming up with today about the influences these guys had. Now we haven’t heard anything about specific trips overseas, yet, or what their contacts were with the radical community, such as it was up in Boston. That remains to be seen.
HH: Andrew McCarthy, if I can keep you for the short segment after the break, I’d really appreciate it. You can follow Andrew, and you ought to be following Andrew on Twitter, @AndrewCMcCarthy. And of course, he writes at Nationalreview.com and for PJ Media.
HH: Andrew, a prosecution will follow, obviously, if the second killer is taken into custody without his being killed. But there will have to be accomplices along the way that will be prosecuted if they turn up. And how long will this process take, do you think, to both investigate the extent of any network upon which they relied, if one exists, and to prosecute?
AM: Well, Hugh, I think that this goes on, on two different tracks. The prosecution will be targeted, assuming it happens, on the younger brother, if he’s apprehended. And it looks like, you know, as we go along, a lot of this is making judgments from what we can see from the outside, not knowing what else the FBI has. But one would think they would have a very, very strong case at this point, especially given the flight and the events of the last 24 hours. So I don’t know that this case would be as extensive and complex as some of the other terrorism cases that we’ve seen, although if they seek the death penalty, as I expect they would in federal court, that obviously will elongate things.
HH: Should he be tried in a military tribunal in any circumstance? He is an unlawful combatant, he is an American. I don’t know if he’s a citizen. He’s certainly a resident. What do you think?
AM: Well, I don’t know that he qualifies as an enemy combatant under the laws that Congress has in place. One of the reasons, yeah, I think we’ve talked about this before. One of the things I’ve been agitating about for the last few years is we’re still operating under the same authorization of military force that Congress passed the week after 9/11. And a lot has changed in the 12 years, including organizations that are affiliated with the enemy that didn’t even exist when Congress authorized military force. And there’d be some legal question about whether these guys were tied enough to al Qaeda, which clearly is within the AUMF, to be considered enemy combatants. If that’s questionable at all, they really have to go to civilian court. And the way they’d deal with that, I think, is not to throw your hands up. The way to deal with that is Congress would have to roll up its sleeves and try to make the AUMF more reflective of the environment that we’re in, rather than the one we were in 12 years ago.
HH: Andrew McCarthy, thank you. We’ll continue…are you appearing anywhere this weekend? Can we catch you on any of the weekend shows?
AM: I’m really hoping not to, Hugh. I think my jihad is done for the week.
HH: Okay. Andrew McCarthy, thank you, I hope we can catch up with you again next week, Andrew C. McCarthy, exploit any resource you can to the fullest extent of their energy. That’s my theory, and Andrew’s been very accommodating. Thank you. Willful Blindness is the book you’ve got to be reading if you want to know what it means to prosecute terrorists.
End of interview.