On Jan. 17, 1996, after a nine-month terrorism trial and a rambling 100-minute lecture from a blind sheik found guilty of conspiring to wage war against the United States, Judge Michael B. Mukasey had had enough.
With a few terse, stern and prescient remarks, he sentenced the sheik, Omar Abdel Rahman, to life in prison. Judge Mukasey said he feared the plot could have produced devastation on “a scale unknown in this country since the Civil War” that would make the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, which had left six people dead, “almost insignificant by comparison.”
Long before most Americans had given deep consideration to the terrorist threat from radical Islam or to whether the criminal justice system is the right forum for trying people accused of terrorism, Judge Mukasey received an intensive education on those topics.
The vivid lessons Judge Mukasey took away from the trial — notably that the urgency of the threat requires tilting toward protecting national security even at some cost to civil liberties — have echoed through his speeches and writings. Now, as President Bush’s choice for attorney general, he is poised to put those lessons into practice. [complete article]